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Fever aboard: migrants, epidemics, quarantines

Abstract

In this article I present an overview of my previous work on epidemics, leading to a new topic that stands at the intersection of an anthropology of biosecurity and a critical history of sugar plantation societies: the epidemics on board of late 19th century migrant ships. Starting with a report about a measles outburst on a steamer carrying migrants from Madeira to Hawaii in 1884, in which over fifty children died of the disease, and realizing that this was one of a sequence of at least three equivalent devastations in less than two years, I discuss broader questions of health, social inequalities, trade in humans, body, gender, kinship, not without a focus on the materiality of the vessels that transported the labor force, whether in enslavement, indenture, sponsored contracts or other modalities of bondage.

Keywords:
epidemics; migrants; Hawaii; Guyana

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