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Bianca Claveria MA

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: Asian History, Colonialism & Postcolonialism, History of Medicine

Cohort/Start PhD: 2023-2024

Messages in a Syringe: Vaccination Risk Communication and Local Responses in the Philippines during the American Colonial Period

Overarching project: ERC Starting Grant COMET: Human Subject Research and Medical Ethics in Colonial Southeast Asia

Leiden University
Supervisors: Dr. Fenneke Sysling, Prof.dr. Marieke Bloembergen, prof.dr. Herman Paul
Duration: 1 September 2023 – 31 August 2027

This project will survey and analyse human subject research, conducted at colonial institutes in the American Philippines, as well as local responses to western medical practices. The focus in this project will be on the testing and administering of vaccines and on the period from the late nineteenth century onward. During the American colonial period, an earlier Spanish laboratory was reorganized as the Bureau of Science in Manila, and often, institutions such as this bureau worked together with colonial state institutions. Vaccination campaigns provoked widespread reaction. Compulsory smallpox vaccination was established in the Philippines from 1901 onwards, and though most Filipinos cooperated voluntarily, vaccinators sometimes encountered resistance. They were therefore accompanied by soldiers, as if it was a military campaign. A broad question of this research project is: “What were the methods used by American colonial physicians to effectively communicate both the risks and benefits of vaccination to Filipino locals?”