“Kikrevou”(kì ire aiku): Sickness, Death, and Survival in the Jamaican Smallpox Epidemic of 1768

Friday Seminar
Elise Mitchell, Princeton University
Apr 19, 2024 at - | Location: McNeil Center for Early American Studies, 3355 Woodland Walk/Zoom


Elise A. Mitchell is a historian of the Black Atlantic. She is currently an American Council of Learned Societies Fellow and Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at Princeton University. She is the incoming Assistant Professor of African American History at Swarthmore College. Broadly, her work examines the social and political histories of embodiment, healing, disease, race, and gender in the early modern Atlantic World, with a focus on the Caribbean region. Her academic writing has appeared in journals, including the William and Mary Quarterly, Atlantic Studies, the Journal of the Early Republic, and others, and edited volumes, such as Medicine and Healing in the Age of Slavery (LSU Press, 2021). Her public-facing writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, The Funambulist, Black Perspectives, and other forums. Her current book project, “Morbid Geographies: Enslavement, Epidemics, and Embodiment in the Early Modern Atlantic World,” examines enslaved Africans’ experiences of smallpox along the West and West Central African coasts, as they traversed the Atlantic, and in Spanish, Portuguese (Pará and Maranhão), French, and British island and coastal Caribbean territories between 1492 and roughly 1800. “Morbid Geographies” reveals how enslaved Africans responded to community health threats and colonial health and welfare policies as imperial notions of geopolitics, racial hierarchies, and new understandings of contagions took shape.


The McNeil Center sponsors a seminar that meets on Friday afternoons approximately twice a month between September and May, with the paper for each session circulated in advance. Over two hundred people attend at least once a year, with an average attendance of 40 to 50 at meetings held at various sites in the Delaware Valley. While most of the regular attendees are graduate students and faculty from institutions in the Philadelphia area, participants come from as far afield as Long Island, New York City, Princeton, Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington. 

The McNeil Center will utilize a hybrid format for seminars in which participants may gather together at the McNeil Center building (or occasionally at an MCEAS Consortium institution host in the Philadelphia area) or attend via Zoom. For regular updates about our seminars, please join our mailing list. Please email us at mceas@sas.upenn.edu with any questions.