History and Politics of Immunity

This working group aims to create new avenues of inquiry in the history of medicine by focusing on the changing social, cultural, and political meanings of immunity across time and place. Our scholarship ranges across the early modern and modern eras and includes the U.S., Western Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. We would therefore be open to papers on all world regions and eras. The group draws on the conveners’ backgrounds in feminist, queer, and disability studies to raise new questions about the specific history of immunity—a topic that has garnered a great deal of interest in the COVID-19 era.

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Consortium Respectful Behavior Policy

Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.

Participants may send reports or concerns about violations of this policy to conduct@chstm.org.

Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • April 15, 2022

    "'Requiring All to Submit to Vaccination': U.S. Imperial Medicine & the 1920 Smallpox Epidemic in Haiti," Matthew Davidson (PhD candidate in History, the University of Miami)

  • March 18, 2022

    Discussion of Suman Seth's chapter "Seasoning Sickness and the Imaginative Geography of the British Empire" from Difference and Disease: Medicine, Race, and the Eighteenth-Century British Empire (2018) and Kathryn Olivarius's article "Immunity, Capital, and Power in Antebellum New Orleans" in the American Historical Review (2019) 

  • February 18, 2022

    Patrick Walsh  (Doctoral Candidate, University of Wisconsin-Madison) "The Pasteurization of Glands: Rethinking the Brown-Séquard Industry (1889-1894)"
    Comment by Aro Velmet (Assistant Professor of History,  University of Southern California)

  • December 21, 2021

    Don James McLaughlin (Assistant Professor of English, University of Tulsa) ““Why not muzzles…for man?”: Situating Rabies Prevention in the Entwined Histories of Face Masks and Vaccination” 
    Comment by Cindy Patton (Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University) 

  • November 16, 2021

    Elise A. Mitchell (Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Princeton University), "Smallpox Inoculation in Slavery and Freedom: Toward an Atlantic History of the Jamaican Smallpox Epidemic of 1768." 
    Comment by Elena Conis (Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Journalism, Department of History, Program in Media Studies, and Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society at the University of California, Berkeley) 

  • October 19, 2021

    Aparna Nair (Assistant Professor, History of Science, University of Oklahoma-Norman), "Paper Trails and Poxes: A Global History of Vaccination Certificates and Passports"
    Comment by Sanjoy Bhattacharya (Professor in the History of Medicine, Director of the Centre for Global Health Histories, and Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories, University of York)

  • September 21, 2021

    Welcome to the History and Politics of Immunity working group! We'll use our first meeting to get to know each other and briefly discuss the introductions of two influential texts that offer compelling methodological arguments for how we might think about immunity, disease, and health across disciplinary divides: Cristobal Silva's Miraculous Plagues: An Epidemiology of Early New England Narrative (2011) and Paul Ramírez's Enlightened Immunity: Mexico's Experiments with Disease Prevention in the Age of Reason (2018).