Field Trip Blog

The Pandemic: Richmond exhibit at the Valentine Museum was very interesting. I had no idea how disease affected the city of Richmond, or to what degree. Dr. Outka really sparked my attention at the beginning with her statistic about how many people died from disease. I can’t remember the specifics of it, but she said that there were more deaths from influenza than many significant wars combined. That was shocking to me because we learn so much more about war than we do about disease.

The exhibit’s connections to race and health were clear. The exhibit covered the history of 7 contagious diseases, a common thread between all of them being inequalities in health care. Not only did disease fall disproportionately on marginalized populations (poor people, African Americans, disadvantaged groups), but these populations also did not have access to equal care. For example, Pine Camp Tuberculosis Hospital opened in 1909, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s and 30’s that the campus expanded and added an African American facility. At the influenza hospital, African Americans were kept in the basement until a separate emergency hospital was created.

The way disease fell onto disadvantaged people at higher rates definitely led to stigmas and scapegoats around these diseases. Typhoid Mary is a good example of using immigrants as scapegoats for the cause of disease. The AIDS pandemic also had its own set of stigmas, affecting African Americans and Latinos at higher rates because of poverty and less access to care. The stigmas around AIDS led to a lot of misinformation being spread about it being a morality issue. We talked a lot about the AIDS epidemic in Biopolitics of Medical Anthropology. Haitian immigrants were stigmatized as AIDS carriers, and that stigma was used to discriminate against Haitian people. Like the stigma with Haitians and AIDS, Typhoid Mary being blamed for bringing the disease to America as an Irish immigrant was used to discriminate against immigrants as well.


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