Featured Faculty: Urmi Engineer



Dr. Urmi Engineer is an assistant Dr. of history at Murray State University.  She studies the history of disease and medicine from a global and ecological perspective. Dr. Engineer received her Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and her B.A. from Wake Forest University.

In 2016, Dr. Engineer had an impressive year of research. First, her book manuscript, Yellow Fever, Race, and Ecology in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans, received positive reviews and is on schedule to be published in 2017. The book will be published by Louisiana State University Press as part of Craig Colten’s new series on “The Natural World of the Gulf South.”

Dr. Engineer also completed a draft of a second, co-authored book with Merry Wiesner-Hanks, entitled A Primer for Teaching Women, Gender, and Sexuality in World History. This book represents her interest in developing innovative teaching in world history. Dr. Engineer also has a book chapter entitled “Epidemics, Empire, and Eradication: Global Health and Yellow Fever Control in New Orleans,” which will be published in Disaster and Risk in the Gulf South, a volume edited by Cindy Ermus, under contract with Louisiana State University Press. In addition, she is editing a special issue of The Asian Review of World Histories on “Globalization and the Exchange of Medical Knowledge and Practice in Asia.” In 2016, Dr. Engineer wrote the introduction to the volume, found a co-editor who specializes on Asia to join the project, and submitted the issue to reviewers.

In addition to her impressive publications, Dr. Engineer has presented at several conferences. In spring 2016, she presented two papers at the American Society for Environmental Historians Conference. Her presentation entitled “Ecologies of Sugar Consumption: Slavery, Health, and Nutrition in Antebellum Louisiana”  introduced new research at the Southern Forum on Agricultural, Rural, and Environmental History in a paper entitled “Providence Rice: Early Rice Cultivation in Lower Louisiana.” Over the summer, Dr. Engineer spoke at the World History Association Conference on “Landscapes of Rice and Sugar: The Transformation of Lower Louisiana’s Wetlands, 1718-1850” and presented at the Society for Historians of the Early Republic Conference. That paper, titled “Slavery, Sugar, and Landscapes of Fever in New Orleans, 1796-1830,” was selected for publication in the Journal of the Early Republic. In November 2016, Dr. Engineer presented on “American Imperialism and the Rise of Tropical Medicine in New Orleans” at the History of Science Society Meeting.

Most of Dr. Engineer’s presentations in 2016 were based on research that will be published in her book manuscript. However, she has begun new research, which she will continue in 2017. Dr. Engineer is working on a regional history of the ecology of yellow fever and malaria in nineteenth-century Memphis. She received the History Department’s Strieter-Fineman award, which will help her pursue research on this topic. In addition, Dr. Engineer has recently started a new project, which began as an offshoot of her research on slavery and sugar production in the Atlantic World. In addition to the transformation of landscapes that resulted from the construction of cane fields, slaves transformed the backswamp of sugar plantations by cultivating rice. Wet rice cultivation in these regions encouraged the habitation and proliferation of swamp-dwelling Anopheles mosquitoes, enabling the development of endemic malarial zones in Louisiana’s wetlands. Building upon Judith Carney’s studies of rice cultures in South Carolina, Dr. Engineer’s research reveals connections between West Africa and Louisiana. Her work goes further in showing the ecological relationship between rice cultivation and the creation of malarial landscapes near slave quarters, which resulted in the rise of medical and popular views of disease immunity as evidence of racial difference.

In addition to taking World Civilizations and American History, students can learn from Dr. Engineer in a new course on Atlantic History, which will soon be offered by the History Department.
Congratulation to Dr. Engineer on her outstanding research. We look forward to her book publications and wish her luck on her new research endeavors.



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