Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2012

Document Type



Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dale Miller

Second Advisor

Elisabeth Root

Third Advisor

Joseph Bryan


In an increasingly globalized world, the rise of epidemics is especially troubling and has been the subject of much research. It is common for the ill to become pathologized and for these epidemics to be perceived solely through the lens of poverty and victim-blaming rhetoric. This study will investigate the cholera epidemic that took place in Peru in 1991 and the ways in which it was a product not solely of individual maladaptation, but as a consequence of structurally produced vulnerability. With a specific interest in the role of structural adjustment policies, which have been criticized for negatively impacting societies, I will consider the hypothesis that such programs transformed the environment through which human-environment interaction in Peru transpire. As such, this research will conjoin the fields of disease ecology and political ecology and allow for an investigation into the specific risk factors through which individuals come to contract diseases as well as the processes through which such vulnerability is structurally produced. This case study of Peru will provide an argument for viewing disease through frameworks of both human and political ecology and as such contextualizing epidemics within the broader processes that are responsible for shaping local settings.