Publication Date

November 22, 2021

Perspectives Section

Perspectives Daily


  • World


Medicine, Science, & Technology, Women, Gender, & Sexuality

During the pandemic, scholarly and public audiences alike have shown renewed interest in histories of medicine and public health. We have learned more than we probably ever anticipated about the 1918 flu, plague, cholera, yellow fever, and other historical diseases, and the AHA compiled much of this scholarship in A Bibliography of Historians’ Responses to COVID-19. But epidemic and pandemic diseases are not the only headliners. As reproductive rights continue to be hotly contested in American politics, the politics of women’s health and the history of their reproductive lives also captivate historians’ attention.

The lineup of panels on medicine, public health, and disease at the 2022 AHA annual meeting is a testament to the popularity of these topics. Of this year’s 17 sessions on medicine, no fewer than six panels focus exclusively on themes of women’s health, reproduction, and medical practice. Other hot topics in the history of medicine and science include race and public health and the production and circulation of medical knowledge around the globe.

Looking to learn more about the latest multidisciplinary approaches to historical pandemics? Wondering how people historically handled the controversial matter of disposing fetal or perinatal remains? Trying to understand why Latinx and other “essential” workers remain medically marginalized in this country? Curious as to how scientific knowledge about ayahuasca generated racialized boundaries between science and tradition? Here’s some of this year’s sessions on medicine, disease, and public health that you won’t want to miss.


Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Plague of Cyprian: Varying Perspectives on a Third-Century Ancient Roman Pandemic

Friday, January 7, 2022, 8:30 a.m.–10:00 a.m.

Rhythms Ballroom 3 (Sheraton New Orleans, 2nd Floor)

The scholars at this session will present a comprehensive, multidisciplinary investigation into contemporary and modern approaches to one of the first recorded pandemics in history. The first two presentations address the pandemic via contemporary ancient sources, and the second two overlay ancient evidence and modern theories of disease and contagion in a multipronged and interdisciplinary forensic/bioarcheology approach.

Epidemics in the Age of Atlantic Revolutions

Saturday, January 8, 2022, 1:30 p.m.–3:00 p.m.

Grand Ballroom A (Sheraton New Orleans, 5th Floor)

This panel will highlight and discuss the ways in which epidemics and medical writings impacted local, regional, and international dynamics within the Atlantic basin in the 18th and 19th centuries. Focusing on a particular set of epidemics that occurred on both sides of the Atlantic—the 1720 Plague of Provence, the 1820 yellow fever epidemic of Savannah, and the yellow fever outbreaks of 1823, 1829–30, and 1837 in West and West Central Africa—these scholars explore central themes in the study of the Atlantic world through a medical lens, including slavery and the slave trade, resistance and revolution, labor and immigration, and the development and exchange of knowledge.


Interventions in the Lives of Mothers: Capturing the History of Reproduction

Friday, January 7, 2022, 8:30 a.m.–10:00 a.m.

Galerie 6 (New Orleans Marriott, 2nd Floor)

This roundtable brings together historians studying reproduction and motherhood from a variety of temporal and geographical perspectives. The participants share a commitment to capturing both the personal and political aspects of the history of reproduction and motherhood, mixing social history with analysis of legal structures, state policies, and social movements.

Sex and the Streets: Fetal/Perinatal Remains and the 18th-Century Histories of Women’s Reproductive Health around the French Empire from Pondicherry to New Orleans, Part 1

Sex and the Streets: Fetal/Perinatal Remains and the 18th-Century Histories of Women’s Reproductive Health around the French Empire from Pondicherry to New Orleans, Part 2

Friday, January 7, 2022, 1:30 p.m.–3:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

Rhythms Ballroom 1 (Sheraton New Orleans, 2nd Floor)

This two-part session will explore “sex in the streets” in the context of the handling, movement, meanings, and practices of fetal remains across the 18th-century French empire, from Pondicherry to New Orleans, via France and the Caribbean.


New Directions in Labor and Healthcare: Ethnic Mexican Struggles for Rights in the 20th Century

Thursday, January 6, 2022, 3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

Napoleon Ballroom B1 (Sheraton New Orleans, 3rd Floor)

This session historicizes our current pandemic moment in order to understand how Latinas/os came to be viewed as essential laborers in the US workforce. Participants will detail how Latinas/os fought against their systematic racial exclusion from medical care services and demanded safe conditions in the workplace.


Networks of Health and Biomedical Knowledge in Modern Times: Scientists, Lay Experts, and the State in Latin America

Friday, January 7, 2022, 3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

Napoleon Ballroom C1 (Sheraton New Orleans, 3rd Floor)

This session explores the role of political and sociocultural contexts, especially race, gender, and class, in the creation of science and medicine as modern categories during critical moments of Latin American state formation.

The Social Fabrics of Medicinal and Bodily Knowledge in Early Latin America

Saturday, January 8, 2022, 3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

Napoleon Ballroom C2 (Sheraton New Orleans, 3rd Floor)

This panel highlights kinship ties that fostered and facilitated the production and circulation of medical and bodily knowledge in early Latin American history. By mobilizing recent insights of legal, social, and religious history, it discusses the medical practice of lesser-known practitioners as well as the social networks through which knowledge was created, spread, and implemented in particular communities.

To read the full program descriptions and learn about other sessions, explore the full program or check out the mobile meeting app. Some sessions may be offered virtually after the meeting, probably in late February. Specific information will be posted on the meeting app and the AHA website. You can tweet about session you’re excited to attend using the #AHA22 hashtag.

Melanie A. Peinado is research coordinator at the AHA. She tweets @peinado_melanie.

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