Alexandre White Headshot

Alexandre White, PhD

Assistant Professor of Sociology and the History of Medicine


Homewood Office: Mergenthaler 541B
East Baltimore Office: Welch Library Building, 3rd Floor

Research Interests

History of global health; colonial and postcolonial international health; infectious disease control; international health organizations; tropical medicine; race and health


My work examines the social effects of infectious epidemic outbreaks in both historical and contemporary settings as well as the global mechanisms that produce responses to outbreak. My book project, Epidemic Colonialism: A Social History of International Disease Response, explores the historical roots of international responses to epidemic threats. This book will examine how certain epidemic outbreaks become “global threats”, that is, diseases that become the focus of international regulations and organized responses while others do not. To answer this question, this work draws upon archival data collected at the World Health Organization (WHO) archives in Geneva, the Western Cape Archives in Cape Town, the British Library, British National Archives, the Wellcome Library Archives in London, and twelve qualitative interviews with senior global health actors in order to analyze five cases when disease threats were prioritized internationally as well as how these constructions patterned responses to outbreaks. I begin by exploring the formation of the first international disease controls in the 19th century, the International Sanitary Conventions, created to prevent the spread of three diseases- plague, cholera and yellow fever. I probe how these earliest conventions patterned responses to diseases covered under them and limited responses to those beyond their scope. Examining how these conventions transformed, I explore why the same disease priorities were maintained by the WHO in their International Sanitary Regulations of the 1950’s. Finally, I analyze the transformation of the International Health Regulations in 2005 and its effects on the assessment of disease threat.

My published work in the field of the History of Medicine has demonstrated how differences in the perceived threat of deadly diseases have provoked anomalous responses to outbreaks. Global Risks, Divergent Pandemics: Contrasting Responses To Bubonic Plague And Smallpox In 1901 Cape Town,  in Social Science History explores two simultaneous epidemics that, despite similar pathologies, prompted significantly varying responses from public health actors in 1901 Cape Town: the bubonic plague and smallpox.




Sociology of Development Book Cover Harris, Joseph, and Alexandre White. “The Sociology of Global Health: A Literature Review.” Sociology of Development 5, no. 1 (March 1, 2019): 9–30.


Hammer, Ricarda and Alexandre I. R. White. 2018. “Toward a Sociology of Colonial Subjectivity: Political Agency in Haiti and Liberia:” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity.

White, Alexandre I. R. 2017. “Global Risks, Divergent Pandemics: Contrasting Responses To Bubonic Plague And Smallpox In 1901 Cape Town.” Social Science History1–24. Https://Doi.Org/10.1017/Ssh.2017.41.


Honors and Awards

The Political Economy of the World System Graduate Student Paper Award: American Sociological Association  2018

The Peace, War and Social Conflict Section’s Elise Boulding Graduate Student Paper Award: American Sociological Association 2018

Best Graduate Student Paper Award in Global and Transnational Sociology: American Sociological Association 2015