Overarching Research Motivation
I am a biological anthropologist who studies pandemics, human health, and demography. Yet, in general, there has not been much of an explicitly anthropological perspective on pandemics, despite the central role humans play in their development and spread. I have thus far focused specifically on the 1918 influenza pandemic, but I orient that research within a broad conceptualization of an anthropology of pandemics, which recognizes that pandemics are directly and indirectly anthropogenic and are united in their ultimate determinants and consequences. I centralize the importance of an historical perspective to better understand current inequality and infectious threats.
My Research Program
SOCIAL INEQUALITIES THAT INFLUENCE DIFFERENTIAL 1918 INFLUENZA MORTALITY
This has been the focus of my dissertation, funded by the Biological and Cultural Anthropology programs of the National Science Foundation. Thus far, the focus has been on the island of Newfoundland, with the intention of asking these questions in new populations beyond graduate school. I am interested in exploring more questions relating to sex and gender-based inequalities in historical mortality data, socioeconomic status, pandemic co-morbidities, and the development of centralized healthcare as it pertains to overall health of the pre-industrial population of Newfoundland.
SOCIAL AND BIOLOGICAL DETERMINANTS OF THE DEMOGRAPHIC AND EPIDEMIOLOGICAL TRANSITIONS IN NEWFOUNDLAND
Newfoundland was a nominally and culturally Western nation in the early 20th century, yet it did not undergo the population transitions seen in the USA and Europe until much later. I am interested in learning about what diseases declined or did not decline, what the specific drivers of the transitions were, and if the 1918 influenza pandemic played a role in the onset or the delay of the transitions.
POST-PANDEMIC CHANGES IN DEMOGRAPHY AND EPIDEMIOLOGY IN CIRCUMPOLAR NORTH AMERICA
Pandemics are severe, often short-term occurrences that can potentially have long-term impacts. This is phenomenon is unfortunately under-studied but has the potential to teach us invaluable lessons about the lasting impact of pandemic events, especially in populations that have undergone little pandemic research like Newfoundland, Labrador, and Alaska. I am interested in exploring the long-term demographic, epidemiologic, and social consequences in these culturally distinct yet interconnected populations and how history can inform the coming consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
FOR THE LOVE OF ARCHIVES
For most of my research, I use historical archives: death records, vital statistics, public health reports, yearly reports of the House Assembly (government reports), personal papers of those who traveled to/around Newfoundland, personal correspondences, etc.
Archives are incredible resources. They contain critical information about lifestyles of people, family structure, cultural context, economy, nutrition, and behavior of people that can make it possible to study historical populations anthropologically, specifically in the context of pandemics. I use rigorous thematic analysis methods to understand the historical context of Newfoundland that can help illuminate drivers of differential impact of the 1918 influenza pandemic.