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Theresa MacPhail
Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ 07030-5906)
A Cultural History of Allergies, 1819-2017

Research and writing leading to publication of a book on the scientific and cultural history of allergies, ranging from the first description of hay fever in 1819 to the recent development of mobile apps, wearable devices, and gene therapies intended to prevent allergic reactions.

This project examines the shifting scientific and popular understandings of allergy and how those understandings affect not only how clinicians and allergy sufferers approach treatment options, but how we – as a larger society – see humans in relationship to the world in which we live. From the first description of hay fever in 1819 to the recent rise in overall incidence of allergies, this project investigates our often troubled relationship to technology, to our natural and built environments, to the invisible world around us, and to our own bodies and our complicated immune systems. Irritated interweaves history, science, medicine, literature, and social media and personal accounts into a larger cultural narrative of allergy.

Project fields:
Anthropology; History and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Medicine; Interdisciplinary Studies, General

Public Scholars

Research Programs

$60,000 (approved)
$60,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2019 – 12/31/2019