University of Delaware
I am a geographer. I research how scientists and health experts grapple with the interaction between humans and the urban environment. I focus on those experts who presume that this interaction produces populations that are deficient, disadvantaged, and diseased.
I interrogate these relationships in a variety of time periods:
- how cholera and marshland was thought to make cities inherently unhealthy (1870s-1890s);
- how religious pilgrims were blamed for global pandemics (1890s-1920s);
- how inner-city environments were feared to lower children’s IQ (1950s-1960s);
- and how chronic health conditions have become the site of intervention to deal with ongoing political and economic crises in the United States (1990s-present).
I trace how experts measure and demarcate these populations through ecology and biology, but also urban planning and public health, and propose solutions. The basis of my book manuscript is a concept I have called ‘proliferating life’ that illustrates how experts feared the increase of unhealthy and deficient urban populations.
My projects arise directly from dissertation research on cholera, marsh reclamation, and the science and expertise of urban health. I traced the historical links between the state control of cholera with the ecology and economy of urban waterfronts to show the ways that they reinforce one another. My dissertation research unpacks how North American cities prepared for cholera pandemic that threatened but never became the crisis that it was feared to be. My purpose was to show how major shifts in local ecologies, city form, state institutions, and social practices come not from the crisis itself, but from the planning and speculation around future outbreaks.
My research contributes to the fields of environmental politics, science studies, and public health, but I draw on disciplines ranging from the science of microbiology to urban planning to state theory.