Interview with Annabel Boeke '12
Tell us a bit about the general focus of your research. What questions did you initially set out to answer?
I study the fight against tuberculosis in turn-of-the-century Buenos Aires. Specifically, I am examining how the growing power and changing role of doctors in Argentine society affected TB treatment. I am also interested in how the disease was linked to ideas about immigration and urban life.
How did your interest in this topic develop?
I wrote a paper on tuberculosis and race in Baltimore city for a previous course and found myself fascinated by the disease’s connection with social and structural inequalities. My grandfather’s struggle with tuberculosis as a newly arrived immigrant to the US after World War II further interested me in social perceptions of the disease’s treatment and victims.
Have you faced any challenges in the course of your research? How have these difficulties affected your project?
Sources on Argentina can be hard to come by in the United States. I originally wanted to focus on immigration and tuberculosis, but I simply couldn’t find enough material to effectively examine the topic. I ended up deciding to study changes in the medical profession because there is a bigger body of primary and secondary sources available on this topic.
What sorts of methods and sources have you utilized in researching your topic?
Using the Nyhus Travel Grant and the Latin American Research Grant, I was able to travel to Argentina to examine the archives of the University of Buenos Aires Medical School Library. There, I found a rich collection of medical journals dating back to the late 19th century. I also found theses of the medical school’s students. These sources have given me a window into the complexity of the debate about tuberculosis prophylaxis and treatment in this time period.
Do you have any advice for fellow students who are thinking about undertaking an independent research project?
Make sure it’s a project you are passionate about and that you will enjoy studying. If no one at Bowdoin researches in your area, don’t be afraid to reach out to faculty at other institutions with more experience; they are almost always happy to help students. Also, make use of the support Bowdoin has to offer; not many schools have funds for humanities students to travel and research.