Co-chaired by Ryan Kashnanipour (University of Arizona) and Claire Gherini (Fordham University), “Contagious Connections” looks at epidemics and disease in Vast Early America.
Epidemics were a foundational force in the early history of the Americas and the larger Atlantic World. Yet their interdisciplinary and comparative analysis has often been restricted by the imperial and temporal priorities of these regions’ subfields as well as older biomedical and demographic approaches to the study of disease. Rather than rehashing whether acquired immunity destined Native Americans to extirpation and Africans for slavery in the Americas, this series proceeds from the idea that epidemics are epistemological and ontological forces: they have a historical materiality but become epidemics of a particular disease when historical actors collectively decide to name and treat them as such.
Join the Omohundro Institute for a pair of (online) conversations with established scholars about the history of epidemics and disease in early America on Friday, December 3, 2021, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm ET and Friday, December 17, 2021, from 12:30 to 2:00 pm ET.
The December 3 program will include Pablo Gomez, Paul Kelton, Mark Goldberg, Martha Few, Erik Seeman, and Philippa Koch.
The December 17 program will include Erica Charters, James Rice, Cristobal Silva, Rana Hogarth, and Seth Archer.
About the December 3 panel
Pablo F. Gómez is associate professor in the Department of Medical History and Bioethics, and the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is interested in histories of knowledge-making, and health and corporeality in the early modern Atlantic world, with a particular focus on the histories of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the African diaspora. He has been the recipient of multiple grants, most recently a H.I. Romnes Fellowship and a Mellon Foundation Sawyer seminar award. His first book, The Experiential Caribbean, won the 2019 Welch Medal, the 2018 Albert J. Raboteau Book Prize and the Honorable mention for the 2018 Herbert E. Bolton prize. He has also published articles, chapters and reference pieces in multiple languages. Gómez is currently working on a history of the quantifiable body emerging in slave trading circuits in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. He is also collaborating in several projects largely related to global histories of science and Medicine and histories of health and bodies in the Caribbean Latin America.
Paul Kelton is professor and Gardiner Chair in American History at Stony Brook University. He researches the Indigenous peoples of North America, environment and medicine, and early American history. He has examined the biological processes involved in the European takeover of the Americas in two books, Epidemics and Enslavement and Cherokee Medicine, Colonial Germs. By placing local struggles with epidemics within the large-scale context of colonialism’s social disruption, structural violence, and political upheaval, his historical research has contemporary relevance to debates over global health disparities and emerging infectious diseases. He is continuing his research on Indigenous experiences with European-introduced diseases with multiple ongoing projects detailing the contours of Native death and survival during the Seven Years War in North America, the American Revolution, and Indian Removal.
Mark A. Goldberg is an associate professor of History at the University of Houston. His research focuses on US Latinx history, borders, and immigration. His book, Conquering Sickness: Race, Health, and Colonization in the Texas Borderlands (Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2017), examines the role of health in imperial expansion, nation building, and race formation in the Texas-Mexico border region. He is currently working on another book project on the history of Cuban Jewish migration, which offers a new perspective on the relationship between race and immigration.
Martha Few is professor of History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University. She is editor of the Hispanic American Historical Review. Her research concentrates on the histories of Indigenous peoples during Spanish colonial rule in Guatemala, Central America, and southern Mexico through the lenses of medicine and public health, gender and sexuality, and environmental history. Professor Few’s recent books include For All of Humanity: Mesoamerican and Colonial Medicine in Enlightenment Guatemala, and Baptism Through Incision: The Postmortem Cesarean in the Spanish Empire (2020), co-authored with Zeb Tortorici and Adam Warren, which was awarded the 2021Teaching Edition Award by the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and Gender. She is currently the Audrey Lumsden-Kouvel Long-Term Fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago.
Erik R. Seeman is professor and chair in the History Department of the University at Buffalo (SUNY). A historian of religion in early America and the Atlantic world, he is the author of four books and numerous articles. His most recent book, Speaking with the Dead in Early America, won the 2020 Lawrence W. Levine Award from the Organization of American Historians for the best book of American cultural history. His current book project is “Boston’s Pox of 1721: A People’s History.”
Philippa Koch is assistant professor of Religious Studies at Missouri State University. Her research and teaching center on religion, health, and society in early America and its global context. Her first book, The Course of God’s Providence: Religion, Health, and the Body in Early America (NYU 2021), considers how eighteenth-century Christians perceived sickness and health in an era of rapid changes in medicine and science. Her writing has also appeared in Religions, Church History, and The Atlantic. Her next project, “Cartographies of Motherhood: Defining Women in Colonial Medicine and Missions,” explores how visions of womanhood shifted with developments in maternal medicine, colonial encounters, and global missions.
About the organizers
Claire Gherini is an assistant professor of history at Fordham University. Her work examines slavery and medical knowledge-making in the eighteenth-century British Caribbean.
Ryan Amir Kashanipour (he/él) is an interdisciplinary scholar of medicine and science in Latin America and the early modern Atlantic world. He an Assistant Professor of History and Latin American Studies at the University of Arizona. His research examines the intersections of experience and epistemology in the production of knowledge and institutions of colonial authority related to disease, health, and the body. His first book, Between Magic and Medicine: Colonial Yucatec Healing in the Spanish Atlantic World, in development with the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture, explores the formation of robust indigenous Maya and inter-ethnic social and intellectual networks of sickness and healing during the recurring epidemic and ecological crises of colonial Yucatán. He also has particular research and teaching interests in food history and co-edits the Recipes Project, an interdisciplinary digital community dedicated to historical recipes of all sorts, medical, magical, and culinary. His research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Kluge Center at Library of Congress, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Mellon Foundation, National Endowment from the Humanities, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. He is editor of several book series related to the interdisciplinary study of colonial Latin America and the early Americas, including “New Colonial Histories of Latin America” with Routledge Press.