October 26, 2020

Poska Earns Grant from the Social Science Research Council

Professor of History Allyson Poska

Professor of History Allyson Poska

Professor of History Allyson Poska earned a COVID-19 Rapid-Response Grant from the Social Science Research Council, in partnership with the Henry Luce Foundation and with the support of the Wenner-Gren, Ford, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, and William and Flora Hewlett Foundations. These highly competitive grants went to 62 recipients – out of 1,300 internationally who applied – for projects from across the social sciences and related fields that address the social, economic, cultural, psychological, and political impact of COVID-19 in the United States and globally, as well as responses to the pandemic’s wide-ranging effects. Dr. Poska’s paper was entitled, “Convincing the Masses: Global Public Health and Smallpox Vaccination in the Spanish Empire (1803-1810).” The grant money will mainly be used by Dr. Poska to acquire archival material in Peru, where she had planned to conduct research if the pandemic had not hit.

The abstract reads:

In 1803 Charles IV of Spain initiated a campaign against smallpox, opening vaccination rooms across the peninsula and sending the cowpox vaccine around the globe with the Royal Philanthropic Expedition. This global examination of Spain’s smallpox vaccination campaign analyzes the dynamic between the purveyors of the vaccine and the potential recipients. On both the peninsula and around the globe, the vaccination campaign engaged the diverse populations of the Spanish empire: men and women, rich and poor, Africans (both free and enslaved), Indigenous Americans, Filipinos, mixed-race peoples, and whites (both Spanish and American born). The campaign challenged deeply rooted race and gender hierarchies and asserted new claims to governmental authority. I intend to examine how each of these groups asserted their own expectations about bodily authority and governmental control as they accepted or rejected the vaccine. I have already conducted archival research in Spain and Mexico, but my plans to conduct research in Peru this summer were halted by Covid-19.  This project relates directly to the current Covid-19 as public health authorities grapple with the challenge of encouraging hundreds of millions of people of all races, classes, and cultures to submit to a novel vaccine for a novel virus. This research will result in a series of peer-reviewed articles and a book manuscript.