Spectacles of difference: the racial scripting of epidemic disparities

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Abstract

This essay explores how epidemics in the past and present give rise to distinctive, recurring racial scripts about bodies and identities, with sweeping racial effects beyond the Black experience. Using examples from cholera, influenza, tuberculosis, AIDS, and COVID-19, the essay provides a dramaturgical analysis of race and epidemics in four acts, moving from Act I, racial revelation; to Act II, the staging of bodies and places; to Act III, where race and disease is made into spectacle; and finally, Act IV, in which racial boundaries are fixed, repaired, or made anew in the response to the racial dynamics revealed by epidemics. Focusing primarily on North America but touching on global racial narratives, the essay concludes with reflections on the writers and producers of these racialized dramas, and a discussion of why these racialized repertoires have endured.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)602-625
Number of pages24
JournalBulletin of the History of Medicine
Volume94
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • General Nursing
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Disparities
  • Epidemics
  • Race

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