I teach classes broadly on the history of modern medicine and public health, Indigenous history, Science and Technology Studies, and Indigenous Studies. Below are some examples of the classes that I've developed. Please contact me if you would like to see complete syllabi or reading lists.
Medicine & U.S. Imperialism
Medicine has enabled the territorial expansion of the United States and served as a crucial site for the development of American economic, cultural, and military power on a global scale. However, the relationship between medicine and imperialism has evolved in complex and diverse ways. How, we might ask, have public health campaigns functioned as forms of colonial governance? How have American political values and economic priorities shaped global health agendas? In this class, we will also be attentive to the ways that American medicine has been constituted and transformed through colonial encounters. For instance: How has imperialism facilitated the testing of new treatments and public health interventions? To what extent have the domestic structures of American healthcare come to mirror those found in colonial contexts?
Both “imperialism” and “medicine” are broad categories. Imperialism can include complex formations like economic domination, the waging of war, processes of cultural assimilation, or formal territorial dispossession. Medicine, on the other hand, can include systems of knowledge and modes of intervention ranging from vaccination campaigns, to the collection of biological specimens, to humanitarian aid, to medical research. Throughout this class, we will question how historians have navigated these shifting definitions and, in doing so, tried to make sense of the historical relationship between medicine and American empire. While this class is broadly chronological, its approach is more episodic than comprehensive. Instead of presenting a synthetic historical narrative, it will offer students a nuanced understanding of important chapters in American history and leave them with a set of conceptual and critical tools, which they can then apply to their own original research papers.
historical perspectives on global health
Contemporary global health is at once a multibillion-dollar enterprise, a humanitarian project operating on a global scale, and a framework for organizing and orienting action among an enormous range of stakeholders, including public health workers, philanthropists, academic institutions, activists, political leaders, economists, students, and international non-governmental organizations. It is driven by humanitarian ideals and by the desire to decrease health inequalities around the world, but is also motivated by fears surrounding bioterrorism and the need to curtail the emergence of new global pandemics. How did all of this come to pass?
This class will track the historical processes that have contributed to the contemporary landscape of global health. We will move through several centuries to examine how ideas about disease, colonialism, race, gender, science, diplomacy, security, economy, and humanitarianism have shaped and been shaped by attempts to negotiate problems of health that transcend geopolitical borders. Students will be expected to develop an understanding of the historical content covered in the class and to demonstrate their capacity to think and write critically about historical health problems and practices. Throughout the course, we will also consider how these historical lessons can be brought to bear on contemporary issues in global health.
indigenous peoples, colonial science
In this class, we will explore Indigenous peoples’ historical encounters with colonial science, medicine, and technology. When white settlers arrived in the territories of Indigenous peoples, they characterized Indigenous bodies, communities, and subjectivities in specific ways that were intended to justify the elimination, assimilation, and dispossession of Indigenous peoples. One of our aims in this class is to understand the roles that science, medicine, and technology played and (and continue to play) in these colonial processes. However, at the same time, Indigenous peoples have contested and resisted the claims made by colonial scientists and physicians, used science, medicine, and technology to express and extend their sovereignty, and consistently asserted the power and value of their own knowledge systems. Throughout the class, we will discuss these issues and consider how they can inform and complicate our sense of the relationship between science and indigeneity.
This class takes a broad interdisciplinary approach, cutting across geographic boundaries and chronological narratives, and focusing on the development of a set of theoretical and methodological tools. Each week, students will be introduced to a key scholarly debate or specific historical episode and will be asked to engage critically and respectfully with a collection of readings, images, videos, or audio recordings that address some aspect of the relationship between science and indigeneity. We will also turn our critical gaze back on ourselves and interrogate own research interests, theoretical standpoints, and methodological choices in light of our classroom discussions.
the history of drugs in twentieth-century america
Virtually every American today “does” drugs. As a nation, our drug use ranges from everyday activities, such as drinking coffee or beer, to combating illnesses with prescription medications, to using illegal drugs for recreation. This course will follow a loose chronology beginning in the early twentieth century and ending in the present day. Instead of focusing on the biography of a single drug, or class of drugs, this course incorporates a wide range of substances, including alcohol, cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, and narcotics.
For each session, students will read a selection of essays, book chapters, and primary source material. Through these readings, we will discuss how certain ways of using and selling drugs have been sanctioned and encouraged, while others have been pathologized or criminalized. We will explore how drug definitions are constructed, how they shift over time, how they affect (and are affected by) people who use, sell, and regulate drugs. Throughout the course, films, images, music, and televisions episodes will also be presented as objects of analysis to provide insight into the cultural lives of drugs. As a group, we will discuss how historians have approached this subject, assess their sources and assumptions, and consider the choices they have made in researching and writing. Students will be expected to apply these lessons and demonstrate the ability to think and write critically about history of drugs.
For more than five centuries, the bodies and minds of the Indigenous peoples occupying what is now Canada and the United States have borne the burdens of settler colonialism. Their health outcomes, intimately connected to this history, remain far worse than the other ethnic groups who lived in these contemporary nations. This persistent health disparity raises important historical questions: How have doctors, scientists, and health officials explained and responded to ill health amongst Indigenous peoples in the United States in Canada? In what ways has medicine been used as a tool for governance, for surveillance, and for violence in settler colonial states? And, how have First Nations, Métis, American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian peoples understood and treated illnesses in their communities?
In an effort to answer these questions, historians have charted specific epidemics, studied the ways that particular tribes or peoples have responded to disease, chronicled the resilience and power of Indigenous healing practices, and considered how medical theories and practices regarding Indigenous health have changed over time. In this class, we will explore the insights and limitations of these various historical approaches. Fundamentally, this class will investigate how both Western and Indigenous healing traditions have been used as tools in processes of Indigenous dispossession and consider their role in struggles for Indigenous rights and sovereignty.