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A Family Drama: The Sexual Politics of Smallpox Vaccination in the Spanish Empire

October 28, 2021 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm EDT

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The National Institutes of Health COVID-19 Scientific Interest Group will host a webcast entitled “A Family Drama: The Sexual Politics of Smallpox Vaccination in the Spanish Empire” on October 28, 2021.

In 1804, the Spanish Crown introduced the smallpox vaccine to its empire, along with orders that vaccination be voluntary and that parents had a right to consent. Yet as families weighed the meaning of this decision, doctors turned to the slave trade, securing the vaccine and its future through bondage.

Analyzing this polemic and the politicization of preventative health, my talk draws on collections of the NLM History of Medicine Division, including institutional regulations and vaccination rosters from the Spanish Americas, to trace the vaccine through the greater Caribbean and ask how and why colonial authorities selectively protected voluntary vaccination.

Foregrounding the methods by which the Spanish sought parental consent, I examine the expectations about parenthood, childrearing, and the family that underscored their efforts, demonstrating how long-standing investments in a patriarchal familial order were reanimated through the conservation and dissemination of the vaccine. In doing so, the talk highlights the racial and sexual politics of vaccination and its contested relationship to slavery, freedom, and motherhood in the Atlantic World.

About the Speaker

Farren Yero, PhD, Postdoctoral Associate, Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, Duke University, NIH

Please visit the NIH VideoCast website for more information.


October 28, 2021
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm EDT
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National Institutes of Health (NIH)
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