Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Vanderbilt University
2020 to 2021
The State of the Poor: State Building and Public Health in Modern Brazil, 1834-1920
Examining the sick poor for the Brazilian state formation project brings the Latin American destitute to the fore of debates on modern health politics. I investigate how the development of public health in the province of Pernambuco opened spaces for the popular sectors to directly engage the state and help forge Brazil within and without its borders from 1834 to 1920. Mostly constituted of African, and to a smaller extent, indigenous descent the populace and the enslaved engaged in local negotiations with officials over the meaning of healthcare that affected official understandings of state legitimacy in society. Their bodies also served as roadmaps for Brazilian international scientific collaborations via biomedical knowledge production that transcended the realm of healthcare and entered that of state making. My dissertation offers relevant and overlooked reflections about how the poor transformed public health into a political arena and consequently impacted the making of modern states.