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Inoculating Whiteness: Settler Colonialism, Whiteness, & Infectious Diseases in Sheet’ka – Adam Kersch, Ph.D.

April 11 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Bridging Perspective speaker series presentation Inoculating Whiteness - Settler Colonialism, Whiteness, & Infectious Diseases in Sheet'ka -Adam Kersch, PhD.
When colonizers arrived in Sheet’ka (Sitka, Alaska), the homeland of the Tlingit people, they imported devastating infectious diseases. Russian and Euro-American colonizers’ writings describe these diseases as a marker of colonizers’ self-assumed superiority. Colonizers saw vaccines as introducing a material part of European technology that would ultimately lead to Tlingit people’s acceptance of Russian and American colonial rule. In other words, they saw vaccines as inoculating Tlingit people with whiteness. Research on this project involved archival analysis, interviews, and participant observation. It began after receiving permission from Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Tribal Council and included reports to the Tribal Council on vaccine hesitancy during the pandemic. This talk will discuss over 200 years of colonial history and how colonizers used ideas about infectious diseases and vaccinations to justify attempted ethnocide. It will also discuss how Tlingit leaders responded to other manifestations of whiteness during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Adam Kersch (he/they) is a Jewish-American researcher whose work has focused on race, public health, policy, and immigration. They are committed to community-led and community-oriented research and engaging with both academic and non-academic audiences. He works in memory of his grandparents, who survived attempted genocide.

After completing his dissertation – which focused on race, settler colonialism, and public health policy during infectious disease outbreaks in Sheet’ká (Sitka, Alaska) from 1800 to present – he earned his PhD in anthropology at the University of California, Davis in 2022. His masters research – completed in 2016 with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Central Florida – examined how refugees, asylum-seekers, and undocumented immigrants in Sicily navigated gaps in European Union and Italian healthcare policies. 

In their spare time, Adam enjoys spending time with their wife and dog, writing music, hiking, spending time outdoors, reading, and crafting. Adam is immensely grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from the TRC and Vermonters.

All opinions expressed by the Program Presenters are solely their current opinions and do not reflect the opinions of the program hosts, program partners, and sponsors.

Inoculating Whiteness: Settler Colonialism, Whiteness, & Infectious Diseases in Sheet’ka – Adam Kersch, Ph.D.
April 11, 2024 06:30 PM EST

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Sponsored by

Vermont Department of Health logo.


April 11
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
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(802) 557-7202
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Vermont Abenaki Artists Association
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