Jessica Wang works on nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. history and has pursued a wide range of interests related to the history of science and medicine, U.S. political and intellectual history, political theory, urban and social history, and the history of U.S. foreign relations. Her recently completed book manuscript, "Mad Dogs and Other New Yorkers: Rabies, Medicine, and Society in an American Metropolis, 1840–1920," uses the social history of a dreaded disease to explore urban social geography; domesticated animals in the nineteenth-century city; physicians' self-fashioning and the role of pathological anatomy in the construction of medical identity; the institutional contexts of medicine, disease, and public health; and the ties between the public-private relationship, urban governance, and American state building. This research also rests on Wang's long-term engagement with questions about the social and political contexts of knowledge, ideas, and public authority, which she has also addressed through studies of Cold War American science, science and democratic political theory, social science and New Deal political economy, internationalism and U.S. foreign relations, and social knowledge, state power, and American globalism. She will continue to develop these themes in two new research projects: a study of tropical agriculture and American empire in Hawai‘i from 1900 to 1940, and a broader examination of interimperial collusion, American power, and global order in the early twentieth century. Wang's publications include American Science in an Age of Anxiety (1999) as well as articles in the Journal of American History, Isis, Osiris, the Journal of Policy History, Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, and other forums.
Nineteenth-century rabies remedies ran the gamut from chemical treatments to herbal remedies, folk treatments such as the application of madstones, and alternative therapies derived from the water cure. This lecture will decode the workings of nineteenth-century therapeutics and explore their cultural underpinnings. Rabies remedies shed light on the challenges of specialized knowledge within a democratic political culture, problems of trust and discerning judgment in an urbanizing world of strangers, and the trade in plant derivatives that tied medical therapeutics to global imperialism.