Liana DeMarco

Liana DeMarco's picture
PhD Candidate
Research Areas: 
History of medicine and public health in the United States and the Caribbean, history of race and slavery, history of capitalism, environmental history


Liana DeMarco is a doctoral candidate in the History of Science and History of Medicine. Her research focuses on the history of medicine, race, and capitalism in the United States and the Greater Caribbean. Her dissertation, “Sick Time: Medicine, Management, and Slavery in Cuba and Louisiana,” is a transnational history of medicine and slavery management from late eighteenth century colonial slavery through the rise and fall of plantation slavery (ca. 1769-1868). The project argues that the development of systematic, rationalizing methods for managing enslaved people deeply influenced the making of medical knowledge and the emerging medical professions in Cuba and Louisiana. Using meticulous accounting technologies and methods of productivity analysis, sugar and cotton planters could track enslaved people’s health conditions to predict their impact on production and make medical decisions for enslaved people that might “preserve” enslaved work time and the efficiency of the plantation system as a whole. White male physicians adopted this managerial perspective and began to produce medical advice aimed at maintaining enslaved health and enslaved work simultaneously. One strategy was the use of “sick days” or “sick time,” which was an allowance of time away from normal work duties to ensure that an enslaved person would need less time to recover from illness and injury in the long run. The roots of our modern concept of sick time – which is meant to protect efficiency and productivity, not the health of the laborer – can thus be found in slavery. The dissertation also uses archival fragments, interdisciplinary analysis, and speculative approaches to history to examine enslaved medical cultures, especially enslaved people’s therapeutic connections with animals and environments.

Liana’s research has been generously supported by the Council on Latin America and Iberian Studies; the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies; the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition; and Yale Medical School, among others. She holds a B.A. in history from Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont and a M.A. in history from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Before coming to Yale, she worked for the Office of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and the Department of History at Harvard University.

Please feel free to contact her with any questions about the HSHM graduate program.