History Ph.D. Graduate Wins Prestigious Fellowship

Carlos Dimas’ dissertation casts him as a leading researcher in emerging field of history of disease and medicine in Latin America

Carlos Dimas

Carlos Dimas, who earned his Ph.D. in history in June, has won the prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Americas for Latin American Studies.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Carlos Dimas, who completed his Ph.D. in history at the University of California, Riverside this month, has won the prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Americas for Latin American Studies.

The fellowship, for which approximately 250 scholars of Latin America applied, provides a stipend for living expenses and a budget for research and travel to conferences. It will support Dimas as he turns his dissertation about the impact of cholera epidemics in 19th century Argentina into a book.

Dimas’ research is poised to profoundly influence scholarship in the emerging field of the history of disease and medicine in Latin America, said James Brennan, professor and chair of the UCR Department of History.

“Carlos Dimas is an example of the importance of higher education and the greatness of California’s public university system,” Brennan said. “After receiving his undergraduate degree, he pursued an M.A. in history at Cal State Northridge and later entered UCR’s Ph.D. program. Through hard work, perseverance and a natural flair for research, Carlos demonstrated steady improvement in his work as a doctoral candidate, culminating in a superb dissertation on the history of cholera epidemics and state formation in 19th century Argentina. With that dissertation, he has already assumed a presence in the emerging field of the history of disease and medicine in Latin America. The fellowship will give Carlos time to develop his dissertation into a book, one that is sure to recast the scholarship in his field, no small achievement for someone so young and in the early stages of his career.”

Dimas said he became interested in the cholera epidemics of 1868 and 1886 and their impact on politics and culture when he enrolled in one of Brennan’s classes in his first quarter at UCR. “I found my place there,” he said.

He analyzed medical dissertations, newspapers, government reports, memoirs, traveler reports, private correspondence, songs and stories in libraries and archives in Argentina and used the epidemics as a lens through which to explore “the fractious relationship between politics and health.”

“Studying epidemics is especially productive because the stress that epidemics place on society illuminates areas of the social fabric that would otherwise go unnoticed,” he explained. “My research reveals multiple instances in which the provinces took the lead in creating services and institutions that established the presence of the state in the interior, and created a balance between the needs of the state and provincial autonomy.”

Dimas, a native of South Gate, leaves for Wesleyan University, located in Middletown, Conn., in early August with his wife and 2-month-old son. He will teach one course each semester.

The son of immigrants from El Salvador, he is the first in his family to go to college, and the first to earn a Ph.D. His family supported his dream of becoming a teacher and researcher, and faculty in the history department helped prepare him to achieve that dream, he said.

“This wasn’t a solo effort,” Dimas said. “So many people helped me. These five years at UC Riverside have been really good to me.”

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