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"Irish Fever": How the Intersection of Ethnicity, Class, and Typhus Fever created an Epidemic of Prejudice in 19th-century NYC

Author(s): Meredith Linn

Year: 2017

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Summary

During the height of the Great Hunger in Ireland in the late 1840s, epidemic typhus fever infected thousands aboard emigrant ships destined for New York City. Suddenly, a disease that had long been known as "jail-fever" or "ship-fever" became the "Irish fever." It was no longer associated with a place, but with a people. This paper will explain why (for many Americans) the intersection between typhus fever and the bodies of rural Irish laborers created a new disease, one they used to naturalize and expand previous ideas of Irish racial difference. It will use the archaeological record to interpret how immigrants attempted to heal themselves and to destabilize stereotypical caricatures of "Pat" and "Bridget." In doing so, this study will employ intersectionality theory beyond its original emphasis on the intersection between gender and other identities (although gender has important roles in this study too). It aims to draw greater attention to the importance of both the social construction of medical knowledge and particular illness status in the lives of immigrants and in the development of racial and ethnic categories.


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Cite this Record

"Irish Fever": How the Intersection of Ethnicity, Class, and Typhus Fever created an Epidemic of Prejudice in 19th-century NYC. Meredith Linn. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431959)


Keywords


Spatial Coverage

min long: -80.815; min lat: 39.3 ; max long: -66.753; max lat: 47.398 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15982

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America