Ryan M. Poe
  • Ryan M. Poe

  • History
  • Carr Building
  • Phone: (479) 414-9396
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Specialties

    • Politics, Public Life and Governance
    • Labor and Working Class History
    • Race and Ethnicity
    • Legal History
  • Research Summary

    US South, Progressive Era, Race, Public Health, Law, Labor, Space, Inequality
  • Research Description

    Property law erects boundaries in society, and alters relationships between a wide array of individuals: employers and employees, family members, politicians and laborers, etc. When did strict property law develop and under what circumstances? How did changes in these alter social relationships? What was the response to these altered relationships?

    Also, framing the history of post-Civil War Reconstruction within a wider, interconnected world has piqued my interest. Was this violent, turbulent era outside of the context of world/Atlantic history? How did past events and inherited social institutions affect the trajectory of Reconstruction, and how does this relate to the wider world? How, then, may we judge the outcome?

    In a search to combine these interests, I recently stumbled across the Charleston, South Carolina Board of Health. In the late nineteenth century, the South Carolina State Board of Health slowly grew in power from a weak institution promoting certain prescriptions for public health to one that, by 1914, had the power to override municipal governments it deemed negligent in legislating public health. As it grew in power, city Boards began transforming urban spaces, inscribing racial and gender hierarchies present in Progressive Era rhetoric on civilization and cleanliness on the ordering of the landscape. Thus, medical topographies became inseparable from hierarchies of race and gender in this era.

    Although my work complicates the narrative of early zoning and sanitation laws, I want to steer clear of the libertarian-esque line of scholarship on Progressive Era institutions (e.g. Michael McGirr) that deems all of the era's aims and goals as ultimate failures due to embedded racist and paternalistic structures. I argue that we should not forget that the Board accomplished a lot in its prime, dramatically reducing mortality and disease when it was funded. We should remain critical about our justifications for structuring our institutions and societies, but to discard the idea entirely ignores the successes of state institutions and aid programs.
  • Current Projects

    (Dissertation, tentative title.) "Hovels of Wretchedness": Public Health as Racial Policy in Progressive Era South Carolina

    , Scholars for a Progressive North Carolina, http://sites.duke.edu/spnc
  • Areas of Interest

    US South
    Progressive Era
    Race
    Law
    Public Health
    Labor
  • Education

      • MA,
      • History,
      • University of Arkansas,
      • 2010
      • BA,
      • History,
      • University of Arkansas,
      • 2008
  • background