Adam Thomas Kersch

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Davis, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10125

Approve Date

April 8, 2021

Project Title

Kersch, Adam (California, Davis, U. of) "The Biopolitics of Infectious Diseases, Vaccines, and Settler Colonial Whiteness on Lingít Aaní"

This research project examines transformations in the relationship between race and biopolitics in Sitka, Alaska, focusing on infectious disease outbreaks over the past 200 years. Specifically, I interrogate the intersection of whiteness and infectious disease and suggest that the politicized concept of whiteness has shifted dramatically. I hypothesize that: 1) over the course of Russian and US rule, whiteness has served as a political matrix through which colonial powers consolidated biopolitical control of Native Alaskan Tlingit populations and that 2) during our current pandemic, whiteness serves as a matrix that threatens to undermine biopolitical cohesion and biosecurity of the Sitkan Tlingit and non-Native population. This research – conducted with approval from Sitka Tribe of Alaska and Sealaska Heritage Institute – seeks to understand how practices of biopolitical racialization have formed, changed, and retained their historical residues. This project contributes to medical anthropology and provides vital insight into attitudes toward public health measures during a pandemic. Such information is immediately useful to tribal governments and public health officials mitigating COVID-19’s impacts. It simultaneously analyzes the interplay between race, colonialism, and public health in the context of infectious disease outbreaks.