School of Policy Studies

School of Policy Studies
School of Policy Studies

Queen's Contagion Cultures Lecture Series

Tuesday February 9, 2021

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Images of Fear: The Use of Photographs by the 19th Century Anti-Vaccine Movement

Christiane ArndtAssociate Professor of German Literature, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Queen’s University

Towards the end of the 19th-century, attempts by public health authorities to promote vaccination did not prevent the rise of an anti-vaccine movement. With the help of images, prominently photographs displaying diseased and deceased children, historic activists produced effective publications arguing against the administration of vaccines. The success of this visual rhetoric was mainly based on mimicking medical evidence, exploiting the void of a straightforward scientific explanation, amplification of fear and the uncertainties associated with the new medium of photography.