Urmi Engineer Willoughby
Yellow Fever, Race, and Ecology in Nineteeth-Century New Orleans
Louisiana State University Press 2017
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Environmental StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in MedicineNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books Network March 23, 2018 Brian Hamilton
A disease cannot be fully understood unless considered in its environmental context. That conviction drives Yellow Fever, Race, and Ecology in Nineteeth-Century New Orleans (LSU Press, 2017) by historian Urmi Engineer Willoughby. Much more than a history of mosquitoes and scientists, the book attends to ecology, economy, and culture to explore how yellow fever arrived in the Gulf South, why yellow fever epidemics became commonplace in the Crescent City, why they finally abated, and how residents made sense of the disease. Willoughby finds answers in landscapes: the contours of sugarcane plantations, the sprawl of a city brimming with global capital, the severed connections of a military occupation, the new rural railroad network of the postbellum South, the urban zones of public health interventions, and the massive plantations and infrastructure that followed imperial expansion across the hemisphere. Within these places, the notions of racial, ethnic, and geographic otherness permeating theories about susceptibility to yellow fever echoed broader social and political discourse. Both local and transnational, this study presents the spread of yellow fever as an unintended consequence of colonial and imperial development and raises important questions about our approach to controlling epidemic diseases today.
Urmi Engineer Willoughby is an assistant professor of history at Murray State University in western Kentucky. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz and has held postdoctoral fellowships in world history at Colby College and the University of Pittsburgh. She is the co-author (with Merry Wiesner-Hanks) of A Primer for Teaching Women, Gender, and Sexuality in World History (Duke University Press, forthcoming).
Brian Hamilton is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he is researching African American environmental history in the nineteenth-century Cotton South. He is also an editor of the digital environmental magazine and podcast Edge Effects.