Foreign bodies: public health and the regulation of racialized threats to empire and the citizen body

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Danielle Thérèse LaPlace (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Danielle Bouchard

Abstract: Who can truly be American? In the United States, the storybook citizen is conceived as a young, white, able-bodied, heterosexual, productive male. The menace of racialized contagion is integral to preserving this fiction and a prominent co-author of this work is the public health sector. Contagion is often articulated as a threat to the empire and to the citizenry and, invested with institutional authority, public health delineates which bodies are "fit" to constitute the body politic. Despite claims of universality, public health policies, recommendations and regulations are informed by historically-specific sociocultural beliefs about race, class, gender and sexuality. This thesis investigates how public health informs the constitution of and responses to racialized contagion. I argue that, in the American context, such formulations can be traced to the late nineteenth century when public health was bolstered by the American Civil War and came to prominence in a society being dynamically reshaped by emancipation, immigration and urbanization. For this project, I conduct a discourse analysis of historically-specific accounts of disease, specifically leprosy (and to a lesser extent syphilis) related to nineteenth century Chinese immigrants and Haitians as a “risk group” for HIV/AIDS at the close of the twentieth century to examine the ways in which public health discourses that serve to exclude certain populations from the body politic (do not) persist. Through doing so, I intend to determine whether there is a pattern to the logics of racialized exclusion that has existed in public health since its inception. In short, do the contours of whiteness always require the construction of a diseased brown boogeyman and, if so, how is this danger constructed in the American context.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Chinese, Citizen, Disease, Haitian, Immigration, Race
Public health $x Social aspects $z United States
Public health $x Political aspects $z United States
Immigrants $x Health and hygiene $z United States
Discrimination in medical care $z United States
Racism $x Health aspects $z United States
Health and race $z United States

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