Antebellum New Orleans was the nation’s ‘necropolis,’ with yellow fever routinely killing about eight percent of the population. With little epidemiological understanding of mosquito-borne viruses, a person’s only protection against the scourge was falling sick with and surviving the disease.
Over time, repeated epidemics generated a hierarchy of immunocapital whereby ‘acclimated’ survivors leveraged their immunity for social, economic, and political power, while ‘unacclimated’ individuals languished in social and professional purgatory. By drawing parallels between the story of yellow fever in antebellum New Orleans and the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, Kathryn Olivarius provides keen insights into the politics of our present moment, when immunoprivilege has become firmly embedded in discussions about easing lockdowns and reopening the economy.
Kathryn Olivarius is an Assistant Professor of History at Stanford and is an affiliated member of the Stanford Center for Law and History. She is the author of the forthcoming “Necropolis: Disease, Power, and Capitalism in the Cotton Kingdom.”
Lecture Series: The Long History of the Coronavirus Crisis.
The UCL Americas Research Network is delighted to announce a series of virtual lectures on the long history of the COVID-19 pandemic. A distinguished group of scholars will identify and discuss the historical roots of the current crisis – and the implications of this history for the next stage of the pandemic, as the vaccine rollout continues. A brief Q&A will follow all lectures, which are due to occur in March 2021. Convenor and chair: Stephen Colbrook.
Two other events are part of this series: