GTWY: Imperial Laboratories

History 190S-01

If race is a fiction, then why do black men and women suffer disproportionately in the hands of medical practitioners? Last year the CDC stated that black mothers are four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. This year a federal ban

prohibited the CDC to use words like “diversity” in its scientific reports. These are not new issues, but ones that endure even as medical practice and scientific inquiry are held accountable to strict ethical regulations intended to protect patients and avoid the epistemic violence enacted on vulnerable populations in the past. This class considers the persistence of racial medicine in the Americas through a history of this violence, exploring the historical relationship between medicine, science, and race from the Columbian Voyages (1492) to the Spanish-American War (1898). 


Through historical works, film, and journalism, the course asks how scientific methods and practices developed in response to imperial expansion; how colonial encounters shaped ideas about human difference; what kinds of technologies emerged out of these encounters; and who was invited to participate and decide what constituted legitimate scientific knowledge. No background in history required. 

Curriculum Codes: 


Theme (Concentration)

Medicine, Science and Technology


Global and Comparative