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date: 22 September 2021

The Vaccine Revolt of 1904, Rio de Janeiro, Brazilfree

The Vaccine Revolt of 1904, Rio de Janeiro, Brazilfree

  • Henrique CukiermanHenrique CukiermanFederal University of Rio de Janeiro


A review of the literature on the Vaccine Revolt shows that it continues to be treated in an overly simplistic manner as a “structure” subjected to some form of regulation, from which its dynamics can be explained and its “root causes” identified. It is possible to forge a new, more cautious historiographical path, seeking to view this “structure” as a rhizome, as a loosely connected ensemble that exists under unstable circumstances whose precarious (dis)order cannot be grasped in its complexity by a reductionist analysis.

Another historiographical approach that can shed new light on the popular revolt of 1904 situates it in the context of its links to the history of the smallpox vaccine and its diffusion. Viewing the episode as equally relevant to the history of science and technology, this article proposes to “vaccinate the Vaccine Revolt”—that is, to reintroduce the smallpox vaccine as a protagonist in the events—highlighting the need to treat the revolt as a chapter of a sociotechnical history; after all, what could be more sociotechnical than a technoscientific artifact that gave its name to a popular revolt? This is a history of scientists convinced of the superiority of their technical knowledge and of their right to exercise their power for the good of the public, who would be obliged to comply; most of all, it is a history without the problematic distinctions between content and context, between rationality and irrationality, between science and society.

It is also a history of the popular mobilization on the streets of downtown Rio de Janeiro, exemplified by the vigorous resistance mounted in the working-class neighborhood of Saúde under the command of the Black man known as Prata Preta, which serves as a counterpoint to top-down historical narratives more concerned with the comings and goings of White political elites and coup-plotting, positivist-inspired generals, marked by the symptomatic exclusion of Black and working-class actors. It also serves to emphasize the symptomatic absence of the voice of Prata Preta, who was imprisoned and summarily banished without any due process. The fact that he was silenced has made it easier to construct allegories about “the people,” portraying them as heroic opponents of elite oppression or the exact opposite: an antiheroic, dangerous, and disposable rabble. Among the entourage of characters who have been silenced, one should also note the absence of women’s voices; although vaccine opponents rallied around the claim that they were defending against the “violation” of women’s bodies, nothing was heard from women’s mouths.

Finally, revisiting the history of the Vaccine Revolt offers another opportunity to unmask the project of an authoritarian political, military, and scientific elite, with a particular focus on Oswaldo Cruz, one of Brazil’s greatest champions of science. In the name of science and public health, that elite envisioned a modern Brazil, while remaining ignorant of the daily nightmare lived by the vast majority of the Black, poor, and marginalized population.


  • History of Brazil
  • 1889–1910
  • Science, Technology, and Health

The Events

The renowned Brazilian poet Olavo Bilac, referring to the “damn week” that lasted the Vaccine Revolt, claimed that it should “dive into the great abyss where everything falls, into the unfathomable abyss of time, where there is oblivion for all”1. In the opposite direction of the poet’s appeal, historical investigation of the Vaccine Revolt starts with rescuing from oblivion the main events of that “damn week”.

The Popular Revolt

The requirement of a mandatory smallpox vaccine, enacted by the congressional law of October 31, 1904, sparked the popular uprising known as the Vaccine Revolt that swept through the city of Rio de Janeiro, then the federal capital, from November 11 to November 16, just fifteen years after the republic had replaced the monarchy. The revolt came as a surprise to the physicians charged with public health at the DGSP (Diretoria Geral de Saúde Pública [General Directorate of Public Health]), linked to the Ministry of Justice and Interior Affairs, for whom the issue was viewed as a “purely technical” question with a simple scientific solution: we have smallpox, but we also have a vaccine. To them, the solution seemed extraordinarily simple: make the vaccination mandatory. They paid no attention to the public mood, nor to the fact that this “ingenious” solution had been attempted unsuccessfully since the time of the empire, when a wide variety of laws and regulations mandating vaccines had been issued but never observed.2

Rodrigues Alves, a member of the São Paulo coffee planting oligarchy, had become the country’s president on November 15, 1902, promising to modernize the country’s capital to make it a gateway for foreign investment, goods, and workers, with sanitation and urban reform in Rio de Janeiro his top priorities. Led by the capital’s appointed mayor Pereira Passos, the urban reform included renovation of the docks to make them longer and deeper and the dismantling of the colonial-era network of narrow streets around the port. As part of the city center’s renovation, an operation known as the “bota-abaixo” (“great knock-down”) demolished the tenements and shacks occupying numerous downtown city blocks to make way for grand avenues and widened streets, forging “a new landscape reminiscent of the one Georges-Eugène Haussmann had created for Paris three decades earlier.”3 Thousands of people were dislodged and had their daily lives profoundly disturbed by the simultaneous construction work, new norms, and public health regulations, which represented an extraordinary state intervention in all aspects of the economic and social lives of the city’s population. According to Jaime Benchimol, “the Rio de Janeiro that emerged from the rubble of the Old City and the social conflict that blazed there—known as the Vaccine Revolt—was different.”4

In his opening address to the 5th Brazilian Congress of Medicine, held in Rio de Janeiro from June 6 to July 2, 1903, Carlos Seidl, a doctor working with the DGSP, praised the federal campaign to renovate the republic’s capital, linking the DGSP’s scientific program to the city’s urban reform: “We praise the wrecking ball, which will bring fresh air to the Brazilian capital, toppling the disease-ridden tenements that plague us with their unsanitary nooks. May they be replaced by broad, sunny, tree-lined avenues, new arteries that will re-oxygenate the main urban areas!”5

The wrecking ball, promoted to the status of an instrument that would oxygenate the federal capital, served as an analogy to another oxygenating instrument, the recently initiated public health campaign based on modern Pasteurian medicine. It was to be headed by Oswaldo Cruz, one of the greatest figures in the pantheon of Brazilian science, who was appointed by Rodrigues Alves on March 23, 1903, to command the DGSP, based on his commitment, together with his team at the Instituto Soroterápico Federal (Federal Serumtherapy Institute), to eradicate the three main diseases that threatened the health of the federal capital—the plague, yellow fever, and smallpox—within three years.6 Another factor in his appointment was his sojourn at the Pasteur Institute in Paris from 1896 to 1899, a model to be followed, as specifically expressed in the DGSP’s first report under Cruz’s management: “it is necessary, with the utmost urgency, to establish an institute modeled on the Pasteur Institute in Paris to manufacture therapeutic serum and vaccines, conduct scientific studies and train reliable people to whom the mission of safeguarding public health can be entrusted.”7

As director of the DGSP, Cruz convinced Congress to approve his proposal for a new public sanitation code, which was regulated by Decree 5,156 of August 3, 1904, but without a mandatory smallpox vaccination, as that aspect had met parliamentary opposition. The city’s sanitary reform now had a legal framework, which, among other provisions, established the Juízo dos Feitos da Saúde Pública (Public Health Court) in the Federal District to handle cases involving evictions, demolitions, prohibitions, eminent domain, and all construction work in any building or property, thus investing the DGSP with legal authority to enter any domicile in the city.

After the plague and yellow fever had been defeated with consistent results in the summer of 1904, a resurgence of smallpox in June of that year made Cruz want to take advantage of the DGSP’s recent success and make the smallpox vaccine mandatory.8 The administration sent its proposal to Congress, which finally approved it on October 31, 1904, despite strong resistance from within and outside the legislature, led by some members of the press, discontent army officers, monarchists, working-class leaders, and positivist leaders, who alleged reasons ranging from the risk of vaccines being contaminated with other diseases to the liberal principles of autonomy and freedom of individual choice in their opposition to a government-imposed mandate. It was not long before the Liga contra a Vacina Obrigatória (League against Mandatory Vaccination) was founded on November 5, 1904, at a meeting in the Centro das Classes Operárias (Working Classes Center) chaired by Vicente de Souza.

Once the law was approved, the task of implementing it through regulations remained. As it was providentially very succinct, the law granted the Executive a free hand to specify whatever subsequent regulations it considered necessary for the law’s implementation without input from Congress. An extraordinarily rigorous set of regulations drafted by Cruz himself was soon presented to the government, making it clear that the DGSP intended to rewrite the history of public health in Brazil, fully enforcing the mandatory nature of the vaccine.9 Without an officially printed vaccination certificate issued by a public health official, one could not enroll in school; get married; be employed in construction, sales, manufacturing or domestic service; buy a ticket for interstate travel; hold public employment; vote or run for office; enlist in the National Guard; or even stay at a hotel, among a long list of other prohibitions. The list of penal ties included a provision that if someone got smallpox and somehow survived the duel with death, the person would be fined 500,000 réis if they could not show their vaccination certificate.10 A forged certificate would incur an even higher fine of 2 contos de réis, the same fine issued to anyone who administered a vaccine that, through negligence or lack of skill, resulted in dire consequences for the person receiving the vaccine.11

Figure 1. Congress approves the mandatory vaccination law. . . The word “People” appears on the trousers of the kneeling man, and “Congress” appears on the clothing of the standing man. The caption reads “Mandatory Vaccine,” followed by Congress saying “Choose. . .” Revista da Semana, October 2, 1904, Biblioteca Nacional Digital.

Figure 2. . . . Rodrigues Alves signs the regulations implementing the law, drafted by Oswaldo Cruz. . . The title reads “The Mephistopholes of Botafogo (The Pact).” The cloth over the table reads “the Tomb of Liberty,” and the caption says, “Go on, sign it.” Oswaldo Cruz is standing, and Rodrigues Alves is seated. Tagarela, November 10, 1904, Biblioteca Nacional Digital.

Figure 3. . . . and the cartoonist foresees the events that would soon occur. The title reads “War against the mandatory vaccine,” and the caption says “Oswaldo Cruz, the Napoleon of the syringe and lancet.” O Malho, October 29, 1904, Biblioteca Nacional Digital.

The newspaper A Notícia immediately leaked the regulations, which hit the city like a bombshell. According to Jorge Carreta, “people feared the unknown and undesirable effects of the inoculations. The doctors themselves did not yet know all the reactions that the administration of the vaccines and serum could cause. There was also a fear that diseases could be spread through the vaccination, which was very well exploited by its opponents.”12 Large throngs occupied the center of the city and confronted the police while popular speakers urged the people to resist the vaccine. Contemporary newspaper accounts of the events were dramatic, such as this heart-wrenching description of intense social unrest that appeared in the Jornal do Commercio: The people reacted ferociously, loosing bullets and stones, fleeing, falling back, advancing once more, falling wounded or dead. . . . Volleys of gunshots thundered through the air, mowing down countless victims. A boy fell dead on the sidewalk . . . The following Monday -- November 14th, . . . [the] same devastating scenes of blood running in the streets, people falling dead and wounded.”13

According to Jaime Benchimol, this was “an uprising like the European street barricade wars, mixed with a vast riot directed against the most visible landmarks of bourgeois modernization.” The rebels fought with wooden stakes and iron bars wrenched from the construction sites, taking refuge “in the alleyways, in the ruins of buildings, among the construction scaffolding,” and when the cavalry advanced, they attacked from the rear with stones and corks that caused the horses to lose their footing.14 Several trams were overturned or set afire, and, at one point, even sticks of dynamite were used.

Figure 4. An overturned tram in the center of Rio de Janeiro during the Vaccine Revolt. Revista da Semana, November 27, 1904, Biblioteca Nacional Digital.

Setting aside the dramatic nature of events, José Vieira offers an ironic and sarcastic account of the Vaccine Revolt in which he describes popular participants in an ambiguous manner, at times as heroic, at times as pawns manipulated by conspirators, but above all as made up of the most diverse sorts of people:

No one knew for sure how the disturbances began . . . a speaker mounted the stairs and, using neither hat nor correct grammar . . . reiterated that the mandatory vaccine was a threat to individual liberty; . . . that before long, the “scoundrels in emeralds” would invade a citizen’s residence, which the Constitution held inviolable, . . . That the people who had brought about Independence and the Abolition of Slavery and the 15th of November should not allow themselves to be subjected . . . to the tyranny of a government that had neither patriotism nor love for the Republic. . . . And the newspaper vendors, the Saúde neighborhood vagabonds, the tenement boys, the unemployed workers, urged on by the conspirators for the initial purpose of wearing out the Police and for performing the virtuous role of Brazilian people, tore off to put this noble sentiment of citizenship into practice, smashing the street lights.15

If there was room to describe the “people” in heroic terms, there was also room for the exact opposite, accounts of dangerous and disposable people, deprived of any will of their own, acting only because they were incited by unscrupulous political leaders, as in the report made by the chief of police regarding Vicente de Souza: “this individual could not rely on the support of the people, but only on common criminals, the outcasts and feces of society. . . . The streets were running with blood; property had been attacked; the city was in the dark. The conspirators had really done a thorough job.” The accusation referred to the meeting at which the League against Mandatory Vaccination was founded, where Vicente de Souza, addressing a crowd of two thousand people, warned that the vaccination of women would put working-class families in an embarrassing situation: Upon returning from work, he said, the head of the household ‘would be unable to know for certain that his family’s honor was still intact, as a stranger would have penetrated the domicile armed with a legal proclamation authorizing him to invade the household and brutalize the bodies of his daughters and his wife.’ ‘The messalina,’ he continued, ‘gives herself to just anyone, but the virgin, the wife and daughter will have to bare their arms and bodies to the vaccination agents.’”16

After almost a week of intense conflict on the streets, the Vaccine Revolt came virtually to an end on November 16, when the government took two crucial steps to stem it: it repealed the obligatory nature of the smallpox vaccine, and it declared a thirty-day state of emergency in the federal capital to put down the remaining rebels.17

The Positivist Opposition

The resurgence of smallpox in July 1904 laid bare the reactions of those who lived through the revolt, when the government proposed to Congress that the vaccine be mandatory. The discussion was highly polarized, sparking intense debates in the press and in Congress. Among the parliamentary opposition, several names stood out: Senator Lauro Sodré, leader of the Federal Republican Party, and Deputies Barbosa Lima and Alfredo Varela were united in their opposition to the administration of Rodrigues Alves and his Conservative Party.

Those who favored making the vaccination mandatory alleged that the public was irrational. Blame was also cast on leading sectors of the medical and political community, journalists, and even the human condition itself, as Dr. Antonio de Mello claimed in “Higiene Pública,” an article published in the journal Brazil Médico: “If you make compliance with the law optional . . . experience will then prove it was useless to enact it. Because Brazilians . . . are human, and humans always have and always will follow the motto: ‘Video meliora proboque deteriora autem sequor.’”18 In short, the most diverse arguments were marshaled in favor of making vaccination mandatory, but they boiled down to the same main tenet: that opponents of mandatory vaccination could only be driven by irrationality.

According to José Murilo de Carvalho, the antivaccination arguments, for their part, drew on partially, poorly, or selectively absorbed ideas imported from Europe, resulting in a hodgepodge of liberalism, positivism, socialism, and anarchism that appeared “in the most bizarre versions in the speeches and actions of the most unlikely people.”19 The antivaccine movement was mainly sustained by the orthodox activists of the Positivist Apostolate. These arguments had a local flavor, but drew extensively from the international antivaccine movement, especially from its roots in England, and were reinforced in all positivist leaflets.20

Brazilian positivists traced their opposition to the vaccine and its mandatory administration to the position taken by Comte, who did not oppose the vaccine and only mentioned it once, in passing, in an 1854 letter to his disciple Henry Dix Hutton on the occasion of naming humanity’s benefactors to the positivist calendar: “As for Jenner, despite the practical usefulness of his invention, it does not have sufficient scientific value or moral merit to justify inclusion.”21

In opposition to Louis Pasteur’s microbial theory, recently brought to Brazil by Oswaldo Cruz and his cohort, the positivist explanation for the epidemics was partly based on the cluster of explanations inspired by what Bruno Latour calls “old hygienism”—a hygienism without any clear argument, without any clear and specific causes, without any single enemy to be combated (such as the mosquito that transmitted yellow fever), fashioned out of the “accumulation of advice, precautions, recipes, opinions, statistics, remedies, regulations, anecdotes, case studies.”22 The positivist emphasis was more on the “spiritual” plane than on material issues, so that proposals for improved water supply, sewage disposal, and waste incineration, among others, were seen as secondary to measures of a more moral nature associated with a certain lifestyle, the “live openly” that Comte believed was the key to good health. According to Comte, the benevolence, “joviality and security that living openly provides to those who live for others will guarantee both health and happiness.”23

Positivist epidemiology covered a wide range of provisions related to public health (including scrupulously honest public administration) and the intimacy of private hygiene, which prescribed family life, amiability, joviality, resignation, adherence to a strict moral code, well-ventilated housing, fresh air, cleanliness in one’s person and one’s home, and an appropriate and sober diet free of stimulants, especially alcohol. Because the prophylaxis promoted by the DGSP was considered a factor that could lead to epidemics, positivists recommended that people avoid taking the vaccine or any sort of serum.

Figure 5. The Obligatory Prick.” A Avenida, October 14, 1904.

One of the leading positivist leaders in Brazil, Teixeira Mendes, fought against the “misleading claim of invoking the example of the most civilized peoples,” and that “whether one is speaking of individuals or nations, one cannot measure the degree of civilization by material strength, but rather by the generosity of sentiments and the breadth of vision that naturally give rise to moral greatness” (emphasis added).24 According to the positivist interpretation, its Latin spirit restored Brazil’s potential for ethical and moral greatness, in direct opposition to the DGSP campaigns, which failed to respect the nation’s Iberian connections.25 Under Oswaldo Cruz, these campaigns were guided by a belief that a healthy national life required a break with the colonial past to forge new links of dependence and subordination to modernity, as represented by northern Europe. Pulling in the opposite direction, the positivist fight against the vaccine was also a struggle against the DGSP campaigns’ “de-Latinization” and their consequent abandonment from Brazilians’ ancestors and popular roots. Teixeira Mendes argued forcefully that “our problem results from the general state of our bourgeoisie, which models itself on the French bourgeoisie. This is the situation that actively urges us to make a change, continually appealing to the qualities of heart, spirit and character that we have inherited from our knightly ancestors.”26 Should Brazil embrace its Iberian roots or be ashamed of them in comparison with the supposed intellectual and material superiority of northern Europe? To overcome these roots or to cultivate and maintain them? Under the banner of positivist resistance to the vaccination, Brazil’s very roots were at stake.

The Attempted Military Coup

There is evidence that some sectors of the opposition had been plotting a coup against the government since 1903, particularly among two groups.27 The first was composed of military officers known as Florianistas, or red or radical Republicans, with links to the forces that led the first two Republican administrations (the military governments of Deodoro da Fonseca and Floriano Peixoto, especially the latter), featuring young officers recently graduated from the cadet academies, where they had been indoctrinated in the tenets of positivism. The civilians among this group, generally called Jacobins, came from urban social sectors, especially public servants, the liberal professions, small entrepreneurs, unemployed university graduates, and owners of the tenement buildings that had been closed or demolished by the urban reforms, “who saw the statizing, nationalist, pro-labor, xenophobic discourse of the cadets as their salvation.”28 The second group of conspirators, who secretly provided financial backing to the first group, were monarchists who had been deposed by the new republican regime, including such figures as the Viscount of Ouro Preto, Andrade Figueira, Cândido de Oliveira, and Afonso Celso. According to Sevcenko, “the monarchists, encouraging collusion and anti-government unrest in the press, hoped to be brought to power as the only elements capable of restoring order, once the confrontation between the two republican factions had devolved into chaos.”29

The chaotic state brought about in the city with the insurgents’ occupation of the streets seemed to them the perfect opportunity for a military coup. The failed attempt began late on the night of November 14, consisting of just two brief and simple episodes: the first took place in the pitch dark on the Rua da Passagem, where government troops confronted three hundred cadets from the Praia Vermelha Military School marching toward the seat of government in the Catete Palace under the leadership of Lauro Sodré (who wore two hats as army general and senator of the republic) and General Silvestre Travassos; the second consisted of an attempt to take over the Escola Preparatória e de Tática de Realengo (Tactical and Training School in Realengo) on the city’s outskirts.30

The encounter on the Rua da Passagem was absolutely pathetic, from the point of view of the military school, as described in the words of Bertoldo Klinger, one of the combatants: “We fired at the risk of shooting our own troops when those on the outer edges mistakenly opened fire on each other; and in the fearsome retreat that followed (only later did we learn that the other side was also in panic) . . . I found myself with no one under my command.”31 Reports of the clash from the government troops under General Piragibe were even more surprising. The general abandoned the battle and returned to the Catete Palace amid a scene of military desolation. “Weapons thrown down onto the street, practically unusable; soldiers rushing around, still spooked; others falling over themselves to clamber onto the passing trams; others who had waded into the bay of Botafogo up to their necks before they were pointed out by the boys.”32

The attempt to take over the Tactical and Training School in Realengo, the second act in the farcical coup, was a comedy of errors,33 starring the future president of the republic, General Hermes da Fonseca, then commandant of the school. Major Gomes de Castro went to the barracks of the 20th Infantry Battalion, where he borrowed a horse and headed for the school. As soon as he entered it, he was overpowered by the students and arrested by Hermes da Fonseca. One of the civilian rebels then burst into the school’s lobby, brandishing a sword and shouting, “Arrest the general! Kill the general!” The students also subdued him, and when they went to close the school gates, they were surprised by the arrival of a captain who, pistol in hand, fired several shots that ended up striking one of his civilian co-conspirators. He fled in haste, and the second act was over almost as soon as it had begun.

Prata Preta

Another front in the Vaccine Revolt drew the attention of the press: in the poor downtown neighborhood of Saúde, barricades were thrown up and the common people, led by Horacio José da Silva, a Black man nicknamed Prata Preta, resisted the onslaught of the government troops. Prata Preta took on legendary proportions as a symbol of the last bastion to succumb to the siege that the Navy and Army laid to that neighborhood on November 16, 1904. According to coverage of the revolt by the Jornal do Commercio, once the ineptitude of the police became clear, the government resorted to calling on the armed forces out of fear of the repercussions of this example of popular revolt. The order was to annihilate the resistance in Saúde, even if the Navy had to bombard the neighborhood. On November 17, 1904, the newspaper reported that “the Etchebarne received orders from the Minister of the Navy to advance . . . to facilitate Deodoro’s maneuvers . . . to bombard the rebels’ fortifications, including the fort called Port Arthur.”34 After the crew of the Etchebarne had been disembarked and “several shells had been fired, routing” the defenders of “a reinforced trench built there by the mutineers,” the popular resistance was finally put down.

Figure 6. Prata Preta portrayed as a scarecrow. O Malho, November 26, 1904, Biblioteca Nacional Digital.

Figure 7. Barricade in Port Arthur. Revista da Semana, November 27, 1904, Biblioteca Nacional Digital.

The moments leading up to Prata Preta’s arrest by government troops, as recounted by the Jornal do Commercio, left no doubt about the fearless warrior’s courage: “[A]nother interesting fact occurred in Depósito Square, which had been occupied by a large group of mutineers from Saúde.”35 There was an intense exchange of fire between them and army and police forces, and “in the midst of the tumult there emerged a tall, well-built Black man with the courage of a veritable beast who was the Saúde groups’ leader. Only after a tenacious and blind struggle was the fearsome Black man taken prisoner.” Even wounded, it required great effort to drag Prata Preta to the police headquarters, where he “broke out in curses at everyone and could only be restrained with the help of a straitjacket.”36

What exactly did Prata Preta want? What moved him to openly confront such a powerful enemy? There is no obvious response, because there is no record of any hearing, investigation, or anything similar, as a thirty-day state of siege was declared for the federal capital on November 16, giving the repressive forces free rein to simply and summarily jam everyone arrested on the streets during the Vaccine Revolt into prison.37

Furthermore, who were Prata Preta’s companions in the popular resistance? Leonardo Pereira supposes that these included dockworkers under the leadership of the União dos Operários Estivadores (Union of Stevedores) and the Sociedade Regeneradora dos Estivadores (Regenerative Society of Stevedores), who are believed to have organized a strike in support of the protests, although the boards of both entities hastened to publicly deny any such involvement.38 The lack of records makes it impossible to clarify more precisely who these rebels were and how they were organized, especially considering not only the diversity of occupations, ranging from dockworkers and factory workers to shop clerks and the myriad of other services that sprang up in the area but also the diversity of the population in the port-side neighborhoods, which included former slaves, migrants from other parts of Brazil, and immigrants from Africa and Europe (Portuguese, Spaniards, Italians, Syrians, Lebanese, and Jews from all over) as well as unemployed people, prostitutes, and thieves.39 The available evidence does not reveal which of these segments of the population participated in the revolt (and in what proportion), much less how their participation was coordinated, if at all.

Press accounts of the final episode of the Vaccine Revolt, the rebels’ banishment in late 1904, resembled an anguished parting gaze, bidding farewell from the docks as Prata Preta and his companions departed aboard the Itaipava, never to be seen again, bound for the distant reaches of Acre under horrible conditions: “The 334 convicts, practically naked . . . rolled around on each other, bruising themselves, slipping in the sickening slime of feces and vomit.”40

The Discussions

The acute perception of the Vaccine Revolt published by Lima Barreto, the famous Brazilian writer, perfectly illustrates some of the difficulties to its understanding: “The revolt has no face, no form, it is improvised. It propagates, it spreads, but it doesn't bind. The group that operates here has no connection whatsoever with the other group shooting there. They are independent; there is neither a general leader nor an established plan.”41 Barreto’s words early predicted what would come next as a great challenge: explaining the Revolt, an effort attempted by several discussions, published mainly by Brazilian and North American scholars, in their search of deciphering the Revolt.

The First Historical Analyses

The first historical analyses sought to explain the revolt as emerging from a set of propitious circumstances, described as ongoing popular dissatisfaction with aggressive incursions carried out by hygienists and police against working-class housing and even places of worship where Afro-Brazilians were accused of being witch doctors. This panorama of the city’s transformation can help one to understand the revolt, but cannot account for the historical details because contextual panoramas lack specificity and materiality.

In view of the wide diversity of participants in the Vaccine Revolt, José Murilo de Carvalho said that “despite being ignited by a single fuse, it was a fragmented revolt, as Rio’s society was itself fragmented at the time.”42 But the earliest analyses, one more explicitly than the others, reduced the fragmentation to two major blocs: the popular revolt and the military revolt. In his article “The Revolta Contra Vacina of 1904: The Revolt Against ‘Modernization’ in Belle-Époque Rio de Janeiro,” Jeffrey Needell portrays these two blocs as corresponding to two distinct revolts, each with its own participants and agenda, both directed against the Paulista (from São Paulo) regime and its modernizing policies: “The leadership launched their coup to remake the republic; the streetfighters among the masses, as far as we can discern, fought for a new social order or, at least, fought back against their immediate oppressors.”43

In his biography of President Rodrigues Alves, Afonso Arinos de Melo Franco had proposed the same “cabalistic” number two, dividing in two groups not only the agenda and participants of the revolt but also its results: “the revolution was divided distinctly into two parts: a popular revolt which the government was powerless to quell for three days; and a military coup that lasted a single night and which the government easily put down.”44

In Trabalho urbano e conflito social (1890–1920), Boris Fausto also proposes a two-fold scheme, stating that the Vaccine Revolt was “a mixture of rebellion with archaic undertones, contestation of the oligarchy and social demands. It represented the convergence of two socially distinct currents with somewhat divergent goals: one current consisted of army officers and students from the Military School; the other included workers and common people organized around the association led by Vicente de Souza.”45 In his brief commentary in A Primeira República (1889–1930), Edgard Carone, to his credit, acknowledged some asymmetry between the “two” revolts: “the year 1904 is known for the Military School revolt. Although this event is important, the popular revolt is more significant.”46 This author also sought to portray the episode more accurately, moving past the bipartite version to one that recognized:

three parallel movements that later united. Their common factor was opposition to the government: the first consisted of the popular masses, unemployed people, those who were angry or displaced from their homes or had suffered from the increasingly calamitous situation; the second consisted of the opposition political parties, with the support of positivists and links to workers groups; the third consisted of military officers and students of the Military Schools, who were also influenced by positivism. They were united in their opposition to the government and rejected the public health services’ overweening attempts to vaccinate the population by force. The first movement began on November 12th and ended on the 15th; the other two attempted to seize power on November 15th.47

In this description, Edgard Carone joins Afonso Arinos’s attempt to draw a chronological definition of the boundaries between the popular mobilization and the “rest” of the movement, a definition that curiously excludes the episode of popular resistance in the Saúde neighborhood, whose epilogue, crystallized by the tragic heroism of Prata Preta, occurred on November 16. It should also be noted that the effort to characterize the revolt in a more heterogeneous way pertains exclusively to its “non-popular” part, as those who were neither politicians nor military men were homogeneously lumped together as the “popular masses.”

But if these “two” or “three” revolts did exist, they cannot be placed on equal footing. There is an enormous asymmetry to this supposed duality, which was referred to by Edgard Carone but had been perceived much earlier and more clearly by the engaged sensitivity of Lima Barreto: “This revolt had major advantages: 1) it demonstrated that Rio de Janeiro could have an opinion and defend it by force of arms; 2) it slightly reduced the fetishism of the uniform; 3) it demoralized the Military School. For the first time, I saw our people unafraid of a man in uniform. Like the Aztecs in the time of Cortés, the people realized that they, too, were mortal.”48

Historical Analyses Beginning in the 1990s

Analyses published since the 1990s have sought to parse out the motives for the revolt by looking at its popular protagonists, but no document has yet come to light that records the rebels’ own voices. This problem, however, is not as simple as it seems because the rebels’ words alone, had they been somehow recorded, would not by themselves produce another historicity. If they existed, those words would be indispensable to the narrative of that week of rebellion, alternatively built from the bottom-up. But the possibility of representing the subaltern, a term adapted from Gramsci by the Subaltern Studies Group of postcolonial scholars, allowed Gayatri Spivak to pose a disturbing question: “Can the subaltern speak?”49 The distressing possibility of a negative response stems from the suspicion that an affirmative answer would indicate that one was underestimating the epistemic violence of the education and laws that precede the subaltern’s speech: with what voice can subalterns express themselves? With their own voices, if such “original purity” exists, or with a voice loaned to them by their oppressors? And if one were to seek to recover this lost speech, would it be better to attempt to disentangle its own cultural roots from the dominant culture, or instead to highlight the extent of the contact and mutual interference between the two cultures? Or, yet again, can the subaltern be represented by an intellectual? Ania Loomba frames the argument with a provocative and self-reflective question: “Is objectivity possible, or are we merely ventriloquising our own concerns when we make the subaltern speak?”50

In an effort to overcome the challenge posed by scarce documentation and carry on the search for the “the people’s” speech to decipher the possible motives behind the Vaccine Revolt, more recent Brazilian historiographical studies have undertaken an “archaeological” effort based on traces of popular writing whose syntax should necessarily be verified outside the written record. This is the route José Murilo de Carvalho took in proposing that “in the absence of written documents that allow us to deduce the rebels’ motives, we must rely on the language of the revolt itself, especially the language of action, which often reveals more than the language of words.”51

Thus, almost as a “natural” consequence, Nicolau Sevcenko developed an analysis characterized by indignation with the exploitation, discrimination, and oppression to which the urban poor were subjected, seen as the heinous result of the formation of a “predominantly urban and decidedly bourgeois society.”52 The revolt was therefore “simply a cry, a convulsion of pain, a swoon of horror and indignation” caused by the profound disrespect and disregard shown by public authorities, for “how long can a man bear to be downtrodden, despised, frightened? How much suffering does it take to drive a man to face death without fear?”53 In the eyes of these sorely mistreated people, the signs of modernity appeared as symbols of an oppressive power, making that modern world at the dawn of a new century, filled with marvels of science and technology such as the vaccine, the tram, and public street lighting into the favorite target of popular fury, the destruction of which represented a sort of revenge meant to “demonstrate a final, dying radical gesture of their own dignity.”54

José Murilo de Carvalho attempts to be more precise in his analysis of the “swoon of horror and indignation” revealed by the Vaccine Revolt. Working from the assumption that Black people harbored fondness for the monarchy, he speculates that the events may have been due, in part, to popular antipathy toward the new republican regime. He then questions the theses that the 1904 Revolt was economic in nature, its “‘true’ causes lying in the government’s indifference to the suffering of the common population.”55 He backs up this argument by pointing out that the recession had lasted for the entire administration of President Campos Sales, but the economy had turned the corner under his successor, Rodrigues Alves, was in full recovery, and even offered opportunities for employment in the capital’s urban reform.56 He also challenges the idea that the revolt was motivated by this reform, observing that “popular wrath does not seem to have been directed against the reform. Pereira Passos and Paulo de Frontin were spared: the workers’ manifestos do not mention them, nor do the popular actions seem to have targeted them.”57 The main cause was to be found in the campaign against the vaccine, the “country’s first successful publicity campaign,” and, more specifically, its moralistic tone, emblematically manifested in Vicente de Souza’s defense of women’s honor.58 That moral affront makes the author believe that the scope and depth of the Vaccine Revolt lie precisely in the issue of moral justification: “It is true that some form of moral justification has been detected even in economically motivated revolts. But in 1904, this justification was the central focus of the protest. We believe this morality provided a sort of moral umbrella that made the popular mobilization of 1904 possible in the proportions it took.”59 The image of the umbrella performs as a space that could house moral ideas that were somewhat diverse and antithetical, some of them modern ideas related to liberal principles of individual liberties and the sanctity of the home, others conservative, such as the defense of a woman’s and a wife’s virtue and the honor of the head of the household. But contrary to Nicolau Sevcenko, his conclusion sees under the tragic appearance of the revolt an overall positive result, considering it “an almost unique example of success in the history of Brazilian popular movement in defense of citizens’ rights not to be treated arbitrarily by their government. Although the victory may not have translated into immediate political changes beyond a halt to the vaccination, it certainly left its participants with a feeling of great pride and self-esteem, crucial to forming a sense of citizenship.”60 Despite their differences, both José Murilo de Carvalho and Nicolau Sevcenko produce an intertextual reading that seeks to infer between the lines another text of greater explanatory power. In their prospecting, they dig deeper but only into the very narrow space of the events circumscribed to that week of 1904.

Sidney Chalhoub’s analysis forges a new and extremely original path, taking issue with Nicolau Sevcenko’s view that “the common people always react--always ‘resist’--they never act, that is, one never knows exactly how their historical experience, ways of understanding the world or life circumstances could positively inform the movement that fought against the vaccination.”61 Rather than investigating the resistance itself, Chalhoub seeks to discover whether the rebels may have had some other proposal to combat the disease. He also doubts the explanation of the moral justification: “I do not find it credible that most of the population engaged in the riot . . . could have been motivated by such a moral justification. . . . [it is difficult] to imagine that rhetorical outbursts such as Vicente de Sousa’s ‘messalinas’ could have had a devastating effect among ‘the common people,’ becoming so important to the outbreak of the revolt.”62

He supports this argument by relying on a study by Martha Esteves, who wrote that “the map of the ‘popular mind’ on such subjects was much more twisted and uncertain, and certainly much different from the bourgeois morality that held sway in the minds of politicians of that age.”63 The track of this bourgeois morality found in the judicial initiatives researched in court records by Pedro Cantisano, based on constitutional values and precepts, ends up falling into the same key of moral justification. Calling on a supposed concern among the working classes to protect the “Brazilian family, the girl, the adolescent, the wife and mother,” these initiatives appealed to the constitutional guarantee of the inviolability of the home in making a legal case against the vaccine mandate.64 Cantisano cautions strongly, however, that this judicial awareness cannot be simply projected onto a group of people who played no role in composing these legal petitions, even if the legal and political discourse about constitutional guarantees could be inserted “in the context of widespread dissatisfaction with the invasions of households carried out by public health agents” authorized under the new public health code.65

Moving beyond the reports produced specifically during the week of the Vaccine Revolt, Chalhoub proposes to analyze it based on the long-standing history of fighting smallpox, examining the Afro-Brazilian concepts of diseases and their cures, focusing on the case of smallpox and its particular orixá, Omulu.66 His conclusion re-establishes a balanced consideration of the rationalities at work: the popular and the scientific: “Perhaps we now know the source of the ‘horror’ the doctors and their vaccines inspired among the common people, at least those with a devotion to Omulu who feared provoking his wrath: hindering this divinity’s actions could result in greater devastation and death, a notion already familiar in the cult of those from Dahomey.”67 Thus, more than mere resistance, what took place was a dispute about the methods for combating smallpox; rather than a struggle between knowledge and wisdom, on the one hand, and superstition and ignorance, on the other, in fact a confrontation between two forms of knowledge was at the root of the Vaccine Revolt.68

Nevertheless, Chalhoub does not clarify what portion of the population were devotees of the rituals of Omulu; therefore it is impossible to know to what extent the revolt was carried out on behalf of that orixá. In fact, Chalhoub himself questions the repercussions of Omulu’s rituals among the Black population, observing that the popular reaction of horror at the vaccine could only occur “among those who worshipped Omulu and feared stirring his wrath.”69 But how many were devotees of Omulu? And did variolation (smallpox inoculation) play a part in Omulu’s rituals? Once again, it is Chalhoub’s research that poses the question: “Are there any conclusive witness accounts that the devotees of Omulu in imperial Brazil practiced rituals involving variolation? The answer is ‘no.’”70 It is likely that large-scale adoration of Omulu and the consequent widespread practice of the variolation ritual before the orixá would have left deeper marks on the skin of urban life.71 Although José Murilo de Carvalho did not include the repression of Afro-Brazilian culture in his analysis, as he does not mention drumming celebrations of Omulu, this could still fit under his moral umbrella, if one pictures it as large enough to shelter not a single motive but a number of motives, and if one forgoes a search for ultimate and exhaustive truths about the Vaccine Revolt.

Bodies, Women, and Women’s Bodies

Other stories can still be gleaned from that week-long rebellion, ranging from its heavy silences to its most fiery diatribes. One example is a passage from the speech given to the Federal Senate by Rui Barbosa on November 16, 1904, in favor of the declaration of a state of siege, as requested by the president of the republic: “the action of the State can only reach as far as the skin that coats our bodies. Its police can grab me by the collar of my jacket, chain my wrists, shackle my feet. But inject its medicinal drugs into my veins in the name of public health--that it cannot do . . . no matter how harmless they may be. The medicine of my body, like that of my spirit, belongs to me alone” (emphasis added).72

Upon this body, conceived so broadly and generically, ready to receive the most noble meanings of liberal thought, there is also another (also generically conceived): the body of the woman, whose modesty was to be protected. It is worth noting, once again, the inflammatory speech by Vicente de Souza on the eve of the Vaccine Revolt, in which a woman’s body emerges not exactly as a female body but more properly speaking as a man’s property, subordinated to the head of the household, to whom she must delegate her public voice, as she should resign herself to the silence of the household. Gayatri Spivak refers to this “disappearing” of women as an aggravation of the subaltern status: “if . . . the subaltern has no history and cannot speak, the subaltern as female is even more deeply in shadow.”73 Therefore, if Prata Preta’s voice has not yet been heard, one can add to this silent entourage the absent voices of the women in whose name the call went out to “react, by any means necessary, even by force of arms,” but from whose own mouths nothing can be heard.74 The Vaccine Revolt reaffirms the conservative norm regarding femininity and its materialization in the bodies of women, while at the same time more subtly proposing the existence of a body that is purely biological and carnal, separate from the regulatory norm that defines it, and in which sex would “naturally” be inscribed.75

Figure 8. “The vaccine.” In the caption, the man on the left says to the other: “I swear, that’s how I am! The first man to put his hand on my wife’s arm, I’ll kick him in the face!” Tagarela, August 11, 1904, Biblioteca Nacional Digital.

Figure 9. “With public health.” The following dialogue appears in the caption: “(She) And wouldn’t you know it, the little doctor wanted not only to vaccinate me, but also to flirt with me!” (He) That’s my point!” Tagarela, September 8, 1904, Biblioteca Nacional Digital.

There is, however, nothing “natural” in these borders made of skin, and, one might add, it was technoscience itself that sought to blur them over the course of the 20th century. If they still seem plausible at the beginning of the 20th century, the culture of advanced technology has made it impossible since the mid-20th century to delineate as clearly the separation between the “natural” human body and the human body rebuilt by the “artificial” intervention of technoscience. To understand more clearly its contingent nature, Rui Barbosa can be juxtaposed with Donna Haraway and her cyborg manifesto: “Why should our bodies end at the skin? . . . We don’t need organic holism to give impermeable wholeness” (emphasis added).76

Vaccinating the Vaccine Revolt

So, what does the Vaccine Revolt have to do with the vaccine? Almost all of the analyses of the episode reviewed here were based on the hypothesis that the vaccine played only a minor role, that the revolt had little or nothing to do with the vaccination itself. It is therefore not going too far to say that in its historiography, the Vaccine Revolt almost always appears as the Revolt without Vaccine. What seems to be a mere game of words turns out to provide another historical approach in Robert Nachman’s article “Positivism and Revolution in Brazil’s First Republic: The 1904 Revolt,” in which the vaccine is deliberately excluded from history, beginning with the title. Compared to more politically “important” factors, the vaccine had to give way to a date: “vaccination was merely superficial to the revolt.”77 One could not be clearer: it implies there is a hidden motive that scholars must decipher, since at the surface of the events, the vaccine was merely a simple pretext.

By seeking to contextualize the vaccine with speculations about what political, social, and economic factors were the real motives for the revolt, these analyses implicitly or explicitly endorse the authority of science, embodied in the vaccine’s efficacy. Science gets off the hook, untouched and unquestioned, its certainties intact, to the point that it is commonly believed that the Vaccine Revolt failed precisely because it deprived the population of the vaccine. In Teresa Meade’s view, it was a “cruel irony” that “the aspect of the campaign that was most beneficial to the lower classes was rescinded as a result of the riot.”78 Even José Murilo de Carvalho, who casts the revolt in a more favorable light as an exemplary victory for citizenship, does not consider the question of the vaccine itself, as what he finds remarkable is the population’s collective refusal to accept an imposition by the state, for which the vaccine was merely a pretext.79

In short, a renewed understanding of the Vaccine Revolt requires that the vaccine be reinserted into the revolt’s history, along with the very apparatus of technoscience that gives the vaccine its authority and legitimacy. It is therefore necessary to “vaccinate” the Vaccine Revolt by recounting its history also as part of the history of technoscience. That is what will be done next.

The Englishman Edward Jenner would come to merit the title of benefactor of humanity because of a special story told among the peasants of Gloucestershire. This story concerned cowpox, a disease common to dairy cattle characterized by the appearance of pustules on a cow’s udders. The cow’s disease was occasionally transmitted to the hands of those who milked it, where it was manifested by the formation of pustules. But what most struck Jenner was that “what renders the cowpox virus so extremely singular is that the person who has been thus affected is forever after secure from the infection of the smallpox; neither exposure to the variolous effluvia, nor the insertion of the matter into the skin, producing this distemper.”80

In 1797, Jenner sent a brief note to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce describing his results, but it was rejected because the “thing” he sought to demonstrate was accompanied by very limited evidence.81 As such, it would remain nameless in the realm of “things,” without an identity that could allow it to circulate in the world of science as a new technical artifact. In this world, an observation must undergo and pass an exhausting list of laboratory trials to be promoted from a “thing” to a technical and “efficient” artifact. If it is successful in this process, a “thing” becomes a strong candidate for an artifact, and the scientist becomes its spokesperson because the scientist speaks not in his/her own name but in the name of that list of trials, thus giving the impression of “neutrality.” It is its performances in that list that defines the new “thing,” and according to the Latin finis—limit or border—defining means establishing contours that result in a form, configured and legitimized by the specific “prowesses” of this “thing.” All that remains is to “baptize” it with a name that makes it seem independent of the trials that proved its strength so that, once named, it can be handed on by other scientists, becoming increasingly factual as it circulates from colleague to colleague.82

The following year, Jenner published a book entitled An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae, a Disease Known by the Name of Cowpox, formalizing the baptism of his “thing” in the very title, bequeathing to science a new entity called cowpox, or Variolae vaccinae in Latin. The word “vaccination” would soon follow thanks to Richard Dunning, a surgeon in Plymouth who, with Jenner’s assent, published Some Observations on Vaccination or the Inoculated Cowpox in 1800. Dunning thus repeated the Jennerian baptismal strategy by introducing the new “thing,” vaccination, in the title of his publication. But the great leap would come almost a century later, when in 1881, Louis Pasteur announced at a scientific congress in England that he had found a cure for carbuncles, an animal disease, calling it vaccination: “I gave the term ‘vaccination’ an extended meaning that I hope science will adopt as a tribute to the merit and immense services provided by one of England’s greatest men, your Jenner.”83

By making Jenner’s work eponymous with his own, Pasteur annexed Jenner’s conclusions to his own research, thus rebuilding the scale of time so that his concept came to be the founding reference for vaccination as a preventive method. So, the history that had until then been told as if it were an unbroken strand dating from the Gloucestershire milkmaids was severed by Pasteur himself, who thereby made his work a watershed, a before and an after Pasteur. The Pasteurian stratagem consisted of extending the list of performances attributed to Variolae vaccinae, which in the rejuvenated Pasteurian version went from being the victor over a single disease, smallpox, to being the commander in chief in battles against a number of diseases, but synthetically renamed as “vaccine,” defined by Pasteur in 1881 as “attenuated viruses having the characteristic peculiar to the Jennerian vaccine that they never kill, but provide a benign disease that protects one from the fatal disease.”84 The vaccine became synonymous with the attenuation of viruses, and the technical procedures for this attenuation allowed Pasteur to announce to the world a new medicine based on the domestication of viruses, which would become the main method for producing vaccines in laboratories.85

Pasteur did little work with smallpox and its vaccine, but the smallpox vaccine was a veritable leitmotiv in his work dedicated to virulent diseases. Little was yet known of the mechanism that accounted for the vaccine’s efficacy, and Pasteur openly admitted his ignorance about “this great unknown of medical science.”86 Pasteur did not attach great importance to the absence of a theory that would explain the success of a method that remained empirical, a theory that would have made it possible to generalize Jenner’s work. Because of this lack of a theoretical framework, Anne Marie Moulin refers to the Pasteurian vaccine as “the vaccine metaphor,” observing that in Pasteur’s program, which rested more on a metaphor than a concept, the vaccine’s immunity “figured as a ‘concept in waiting’, to use Canguilhem’s expression, whose content remained to be defined.”87

Therefore, although it had served as a model for Pasteurian science to advance in the production of vaccines (against rabies, carbuncles, the plague, etc.), the fight against smallpox was still shrouded in scientific ignorance. Nevertheless, the Vaccine Revolt involved an effort by DGSP physicians to formalize a discourse that redistributed the repository of knowledge, expropriating it from the popular wisdom that had coauthored Jenner’s insight and reallocating it exclusively to scientists. Proof of this is to be found in the book Os Serviços de Saúde Pública no Brasil, written some years after the revolt: “dirty political maneuvering was certainly not able to achieve all its objectives, but it did arouse such antipathy toward the smallpox vaccine among the ignorant and superstitious masses that it will now be more difficult than ever to make it mandatory” (emphasis added).88

Medical wisdom, cast as the polar opposite of popular wisdom, offers a glimpse of a new demarcation of borders, this time between ignorance and wisdom, between superstition and knowledge, between those who believe and those who know. Thus emerges what Bruno Latour calls a Great Divide between, on the one hand, human rationality protected by scientific objectivity and, on the other, the irrational subjectivity of men betrayed by their beliefs and passions.89 The “irrational” people were lured off the straight road of Science by “something.” The asymmetric treatment of the revolt arises from the fact that the “rational” people assume that only the “something” that lured others from the straight road requires explanation, while the straight road of supposedly “rational knowledge” is self-evident, requiring no explanation. At most, they use the term “ethnoscience” to denote the system of beliefs capable of producing some specific and local knowledge, as pure and simple Science continues to refer to the knowledge of the universal scientific network, whose expansion and stabilization is supposed to follow the diffusion model (see the section “The Vaccine Revolt and the Diffusion Model”).

The Vaccine Revolt and the Diffusion Model

All the attempts to explain the Vaccine Revolt examined here were formulated in terms of trying to understand a deviation from the “straight path” of scientific rationality. Another option is to continue following the steps of the scientists. By agreeing to continue along this “straight path,” one can hope to contribute to a technoscientific narrative about the smallpox vaccine, thus “vaccinating” the Vaccine Revolt.

For that cluster of illustrious men of science orbiting around the DGSP, the perplexing question is why people did not peacefully and passively make way for the vaccine, a “black box” that technoscience had already sealed.90 In this sense, it is worth examining the discussion over whether the vaccine should be mandatory in the Comissão de Saúde e Instrução Pública do Congresso (Congressional Commission on Health and Public Instruction), where even those on the side of science were obliged to acknowledge the boiling cauldron in which a supposedly scientific debate was cooking: “In fact, among the enormous congeries of opinions and hypotheses brought to bear against making the vaccine mandatory, none is based on positive data that would undermine the proposal.”91 The argument assumes the existence of “positive data” resulting from the “purity” of scientific certainties totally separate from social experience, and concludes with the existence of an “impure” heap of heterogeneities and complexities that is nothing other than society itself. How to escape the congeries, that expression of a hybridization that was unwelcome in the purified world of science, so that science could circulate unhindered? The commission’s solution proposed a rigid separation between science and morals, between law and virus, between experience and prejudice, a separation whose radicalism was recorded at the end of its report in these final didactic words: “If the church indoctrinates and science defines, the State legislates.” The congeries was a stumbling block on the straight path of science, and only the strictest separation of spheres with well-policed borders could preserve the necessary purity of what science had defined.

The idea of a separation between science and society supports the hegemonic model of scientific production, the analysis of which can provide another understanding of the Vaccine Revolt. Bruno Latour calls it the diffusion model because it gives the impression that the circulation of technoscientific objects is restricted to being passed along by a multitude of believers.92 This model has odd features: first, it implies that facts and artifacts circulate even in the absence of anyone who causes them to circulate; the second has to do with forgetting the immense human collective that passes along objects from one person to the next and the numerous entities that shape these objects and are shaped by them. Objects are seen as having a “purely technical” lineage, and they are not so much constructed as revealed, in that what is revealed—a microbe, a particle, a vaccine—has simply been extracted by someone from a stable and permanent reality not to shape it but simply to help it come to light. Of course, it is impossible for a single genius of humanity to single-handedly disseminate his/her discoveries and inventions. The “diffusionists” fill this gap, enthroning scientists of mythic proportions and endowing them with extraordinary entrepreneurial ability: “Thousands of people are at work, hundreds of thousands of new actors are mobilised in these works, but only a few are designated as the motors that move the whole thing.”93

Careful attention to the use of the term “congeries”—a synthesis for the rejection of all social interference in scientific actions and definitions—reveals the space that the diffusion model reserves for society’s action. Bruno Latour proposes that “the diffusion model now invents a society . . . [as] simply a medium of different resistances through which ideas and machines travel,” based on “the principle of asymmetry: there is appeal to social factors only when the true path of reason has been ‘distorted’ but not when it goes straight.”94

The men of the DGSP and their allies were surprised to find “groups of resisters.” After all, the diffusion model portrays the users of technoscience as subjects who are willing to act “rationally,” that is, to accept the efficiency of its products, which nevertheless do not move about on their own, so these products continue to need a long chain of mediations. Through these mediations, users can break out of their initial representation as made by the producer of facts and artifacts and engage in an autonomous movement, taking surprising directions, sometimes preventing the circulation of technoscientific objects, as in this case, and at other times promoting their unexpected circulations that thus acquire unforeseen uses.95

According to that representation, these users would have to submit passively to the mediations entailed in the vaccination campaign, starting with the act of vaccination itself, which is by no means a simple matter, presaging the existence of so many other complexities involved in the vaccination campaign. Scientific publications of the time show that some doctors were of the opinion that part of the resistance to vaccination resulted from poorly administered vaccines, and although it is problematic, the argument casts light on what type of vaccination ritual the “simple” citizen was expected to undergo. In March 1904, Toledo Dodsworth, vice-director of the Instituto Vacínico Municipal (Municipal Vaccine Institute), wrote an article in the journal Brazil Médico “for the sole purpose of contributing to the promotion of vaccination among the common people, while defending vaccines from unjust accusations . . . taking, however, all the precautions that precede any surgical procedure, no matter how simple or commonplace it may seem” (emphasis added).96 The doctor himself acknowledges that things are not always as simple as they seem, for when it comes to vaccination, “a lack of meticulous care and the neglect of detailed rules at the moment of its application often render it useless . . . [and can] cause serious accidents and add to the ill will with which the vaccinators are generally received.”

The vaccinator, a character who had so far remained on the sidelines, takes on extraordinary importance in the description of the vaccination procedure, demonstrating that the diffusion of a technoscientific artifact requires the active, not merely passive, cooperation of increasingly extensive and heterogeneous collectives. In the hands of a bad vaccinator, the vaccination was no longer “a quick, simple, painless, smooth operation that caused no worry to the family, whose confidence should be gained.” The article described in minute detail a process that had all the complexity of a surgical procedure, involving antiseptic preparation, a well-mixed vaccine, incisions that did not bleed and followed a certain format, among other provisions, revealing that the act of vaccination had to follow a number of prescriptions, even if it was intended as a “simple” routine act. Scenes featuring sleeping children—“Sleeping children have often been vaccinated at the Vaccine Institute without waking up!”—created a pure and chaste image highly appropriate for a description that strategically avoided mention of the bodies of the family’s ladies.

Figure 10. “The famous brains.” The poem in the title reads: “In this arterial perforation / The manly doctor of high sciences / Seems to see in human nature / A living field for experiments.” Avenida, September 3, 1904.

In this regard, Bruno Latour notes that “the more automatic and the blacker the black box is, the more it has to be accompanied by people. In many situations . . . the black box stops pitifully because there is no salesperson, no repairer, no spare part,” nor an efficient vaccinator, one might add.97 The vaccination therefore does not consist only of the abstract administration of a biological product tested and approved in a laboratory. Its administration necessarily involves the submission of thousands of bodies that must somehow believe its promises of redemption.

So, in that year of 1904, a diverse and heterogeneous population had to be taken into consideration, even if they were, as the police chief put it, the “feces of society.” The existence of citizenship had to be considered, and one can only imagine how difficult it was for the population to trust the actions of a state that had historically acted against the popular interest, and for an authoritarian, slave-holding elite to take the concerns of poor people into consideration. For this elite, therefore, the scientific fiction of the diffusion model fitted like a glove. In this sense, the Vaccine Revolt can be seen as resulting from the oppressive and authoritarian political practice of a model that was itself authoritarian: the diffusion model.


Assuming a popular revolt takes its shape from the intense interaction of “outside” forces derived from the social and political context with the unpredictable and uncontrollable “internal” dynamics shown by rebels on the streets, the historiographical review of the Vaccine Revolt attempted here has sought to question its portrayal as a “structure” subjected to some sort of regulation. Instead, a more cautious and modest path was approached to treat this “structure” as a rhizome, as a loosely connected ensemble acting under complex and unstable circumstances, not captured by a reductionist analysis.

The focus on Prata Preta served as a counterpoint to histories narrated from the top-down, more concerned with the comings and goings of politicians and coup-minded generals, leaving little or no space for protagonists among the common people. It also served to emphasize the absence of the voice of Prata Preta, whose “muting” made it easier to construct allegories about “the people,” portrayed as heroically opposing elite oppression or, conversely, antiheroically cast as “dangerous types.” Gayatri Spivak warns, however, “that the colonized subaltern subject is irretrievably heterogeneous.”98 If the choice to provide maximum historical visibility to the rebels’ position is welcome, discarding their heterogeneity in favor of a supposed “subaltern consciousness” causes those in search of this “consciousness” to measure only their own radicalism by their ability to construct historical examples of popular resistance superimposed on the mute (and absent) figure of Prata Preta.

This article also sought to highlight the issue of gender, adding to the silence of the muted characters the absent voices of women, in whose name the call went out to “resist, by any means necessary, even with force of arms,” but from whose own mouths nothing was heard.99

Finally, it treated the revolt as an episode equally relevant to the history of science and technology, summed up in the proposal to “vaccinate the Vaccine Revolt,” approaching it as a sociotechnical history, moved by the fact that the vaccine, a technoscientific artifact, gave its name to a popular revolt. That is why references were presented that intertwined the history of science with its sociology, mobilized especially by the concepts of the diffusion model and the critique of the Great Divide. It sought, in the midst of so many heterogeneities, to focus on a history without the problematic separations between science and society.

Donna Haraway proposes that “the only way to find a larger vision is to be somewhere in particular.”100 Following this proposal, the vantage point chosen here from which to describe the Vaccine Revolt was on the docks the day the Itaipava sailed, its hold stuffed with “that rabble who went about smashing street lights and trams, dangerous people who are now on their way to Acre.”101 It is a vantage pointed located between those who stayed behind—and who, in the name of modernity and science, dreamed of the future but turned their backs to the ship that casted off—and those banished people, Prata Preta at their head, embarking on a slave-ship nightmare, among all those nightmares that have long persisted in giving the lie to Brazilian elites’ pretensions to a modern Brazil.

“The Itaipava turned its powerful propeller, slowly churning the waters of the bay, curving in a graceful arc to face the shoals . . . From the hold rose a terrible, sickening stench that drove back anyone who approached.” There, at that moment, among the sea swells, one could faintly hear the poet’s verses as they rolled over the docks: “It was a dantesque dream . . . the deck / Great lights redenning its brilliance, / Bathing it in blood. / Clang of irons . . . snap of whip . . . / Legions of men black as the night / Horrible dancing . . . ”102

Further Reading

  • Barbosa, Plácido, and Cassio Barbosa Rezende. Os Serviços de Saúde Pública no Brasil, Especialmente na Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, 1808 a 1907. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Imprensa Nacional, 1909.
  • Benchimol, Jaime L. Pereira Passos: Um Haussmann Tropical. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Secretaria Municipal de Cultura, Turismo e Esportes-Divisão de Editoração, 1992.
  • Benchimol, Jaime L., ed. Manguinhos, do Sonho à Vida: A Ciência na Belle Époque. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Casa de Oswaldo Cruz/Fiocruz, 1990.
  • Brenna, Giovanna Rosso del, ed. O Rio de Janeiro de Pereira Passos. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Editora Index, 1985.
  • Cantisano, Pedro. “Rio de Janeiro on Trial: Law and Urban Reform in Modern Brazil.” PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2018.
  • Fernandes, Tania M.Vacina Antivariólica: Seu Primeiro Século no Brasil (da Vacina Jenneriana à Animal).” História, Ciências, Saúde-Manguinhos 6, no. 1 (March/June 1999): 29–51.
  • Fernandes, Tania M. Vacina Antivariólica: Ciência, Técnica e o Poder dos Homens, 1808–1920. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Editora Fiocruz, 2010.
  • Hochman, Gilberto. A Era do Saneamento: As Bases de Política de Saúde Pública no Brasil. São Paulo, Brazil: Hucitec/Anpocs, 1998.
  • Hochman, Gilberto. “Vacinação, Varíola e uma Cultura da Imunização no Brasil.” Ciênc. saúde coletiva 16, no. 2 (February 2011): 375–386.
  • Meade, Teresa. “Community Protest in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, During the First Republic, 1890–1917.” PhD diss., Rutgers University, 1984.
  • Meade, Teresa. “‘Civilizing Rio de Janeiro’: The Public Health Campaign and the Riot of 1904.” Journal of Social History 20, no. 2 (Winter 1986): 301–322.
  • Meihy José Carlos Sebe, and Claudio Bertolli Filho Bom. História Social da Saúde: Opinião Pública e Poder, a Campanha da Vacina de 1904. São Paulo, Brazil: Cedhal.
  • Meihy José Carlos Sebe, and Claudio Bertolli Filho Bom. Revolta Da Vacina. São Paulo, Brazil: Ática, 1995.
  • Pôrto, Ângela, and Carlos Fidelis Ponte. “Vacinas e campanhas: As imagens de uma história a ser contada.” História, Ciências, Saúde-Manguinhos 10, suppl. 2 (2003), 725–742.
  • Salgado, Aline Silva. “A Revolta Contra a Vacina: A Vulgarização Científica na Grande Imprensa no Ano de 1904.” Master’s thesis, Casa de Oswaldo Cruz/Fiocruz, 2018.
  • Scliar, Moacyr. Oswaldo Cruz: Entre micróbios e barricadas. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Relume-Dumará, Prefeitura da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, 1996.
  • Silva, Francisco Bento da. “Do Rio de Janeiro para a Sibéria Tropical: Prisões e Desterros para o Acre nos Anos de 1904 e 1910.” Tempo e Argumento 3, no. 1 (January/June 2011): 161–179.
  • Sodré, Emmanuel. Lauro Sodré na História da República. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: author’s edition, 1970.


  • 1. Gazeta de Notícias, November 20, 1904.

  • 2. The Brazilian Empire began with the acclamation of Emperor D. Pedro I in 1822 and lasted until the proclamation of the republic in 1889. For more on laws and regulations mandating vaccines since the time of the empire, see Henrique Cukierman, Yes, Nós Temos Pasteur: Manguinhos, Oswaldo Cruz e a História da Ciência no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Relume Dumará/FAPERJ, 2007), 35, 95–97.

  • 3. Examples of public works from this period include the construction of Avenida Central (currently Avenida Rio Branco) and the Mangue Canal, the removal of Castelo Hill, and the urbanization of Avenida Beira-Mar.

    See Jaime Benchimol, Pereira Passos: Um Haussmann Tropical (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Secretaria Municipal de Cultura, 1990); and Jaime L. Benchimol, “Reforma urbana e Revolta da Vacina na cidade do Rio de Janeiro,” in O Brasil Republicano: O tempo do liberalismo excludente—da Proclamação da Republica à Revolução de 1930, vol. 1, ed. Jorge Ferreira and Lucilia de Almeida Neves Delgado (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Civilização Brasileira, 2003), 246.

  • 4. Benchimol, “Reforma urbana e Revolta da Vacina,” 247.

  • 5. Opening session of the 5th Congress, June 16, 1903, in Brazil Médico ano XVII, no. 25 (July 1, 1903): 245.

  • 6. Inaugurated on July 23, 1900.

  • 7. Relatório da Diretoria Geral de Saúde Pública (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Imprensa Nacional, 1903).

  • 8. The campaign against yellow fever earned Oswaldo Cruz the nickname “General Mosquito-Killer.” Yellow fever cases fell from 1,118 in 1903 (with 584 deaths) to 118 in 1904 (with 48 deaths). On the campaign against yellow fever, see Cukierman, Yes, Nós Temos Pasteur, 171–219.

  • 9. Arquivo Oswaldo Cruz (Rio de Janeiro, Casa de Oswaldo Cruz), Fundo I, Pasta 39.

  • 10. Nuno de Andrade, Oswaldo Cruz’s predecessor as director of the DGSP, published an article in the July 28, 1903, edition of the Jornal do Commercio indicating that 500,000 réis was equivalent to US$270. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, this value would be equivalent to US$8,035 in 2021. However, in Gênese e Evolução da Ciência Brasileira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Artenova, 1976), Nancy Stepan reports a 1900 exchange rate that would make this the modern equivalent of US$3,600.

  • 11. A conto de réis was equivalent to a million réis.

  • 12. Jorge Carreta, “Oswaldo Cruz e a Controvérsia da Sorologia.” História, Ciências, Saúde—Manguinhos 18, no. 3 (July–September 2011): 681.

  • 13. Quoted in Nicolau Sevcenko, A Revolta da Vacina: Mentes Insanas em Corpos Rebeldes (São Paulo, Brazil: Scipione, 1993), 22–27, 30–33.

  • 14. Benchimol, “Reforma urbana e Revolta da Vacina,” 292–293.

  • 15. José Vieira, O Bota-Abaixo (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Selma Editora, n.d.), 173. The “scoundrels in emeralds” were the public health doctors (the emeralds referring to the traditional manner in which physicians identified themselves by using a gold ring inset with an emerald).

  • 16. Quoted in José Murilo de Carvalho, Os Bestializados: O Rio de Janeiro e a República que não foi (São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 1996), 100–101. “Messalina” in Portuguese means prostitute, deriving this meaning from the historical reference to the third wife of the Roman emperor Claudius, with a reputation for promiscuity.

  • 17. The state of emergency was extended twice by President Rodrigues Alves, lasting until March 18, 1905.

  • 18. Antonio de Mello, “Higiene Pública,” Brazil Médico ano XVIII, no. 32 (August 22, 1904): 323–324. “Video meliora proboque deteriora autem sequor” translates as “I see and acknowledge the better path, but choose the worse path.”

  • 19. Carvalho, Os Bestializados, 42.

  • 20. Resistance to vaccination dates from the 19th century and continues to the present, and the Vaccine Revolt was neither the first nor the final episode, but it was the “most spectacular example,” according to Robert D. Johnston in The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism in Progressive Era Portland, Oregon (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 183, who has carefully assembled a vast range of cases in his brief international history of the antivaccine movement. His compilation of resistance groups includes several American states, as well as France, where the Catholic Church refused to endorse vaccination, and the supreme bastion of resistance, England, where the antivaccination movement has been most successful. It also includes Ceylon, India, Algeria, and the Philippines, where resistance to vaccination was part of the anti-imperialist cause. So many examples of resistance show that the motto of universal vaccination and the efforts of the technoscientific apparatus to make it a global reality seem also to have provoked at the same time a universal resistance to vaccination.

  • 21. Edward Jenner is known as the inventor of the smallpox vaccine (see the section “Vaccinating the Vaccine Revolt”). [Production: Please add an anchored link to the heading “Vaccinating the Vaccine Revolt.”] Quoted in Bagueira Leal, A Questão da Vacina (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Igreja e Apostolado Positivista do Brasil, 1904), xxii.

  • 22. Bruno Latour, The Pasteurization of France (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 20. The arguments of “old hygienism” received extensive exposure since the beginning of the campaign against yellow fever led by Oswaldo Cruz (see Cukierman, Yes, Nós Temos Pasteur, 115–142).

  • 23. Quoted in Leal, A Questão da Vacina, xxxvi. The passage is from Auguste Comte’s letter to Georges Audiffrent of December 11, 1854.

  • 24. Raimundo Teixeira Mendes, Contra a Vacinação Obrigatória (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Apostolado Positivista, 1904), 19–20.

  • 25. Cukierman, Yes, Nós Temos Pasteur, 29–43.

  • 26. Quoted in João Cruz Costa, O Positivismo na República (São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1956), 41.

  • 27. See Sevcenko, A Revolta da Vacina, 27.

  • 28. Sevcenko, A Revolta da Vacina, 10.

  • 29. Sevcenko, A Revolta da Vacina, 28.

  • 30. The plan was to carry out the coup in the early hours of November 15, the anniversary of the declaration of the republic. Rua da Passagem is in the Botafogo neighborhood, while the Praia Vermelha Military School is in the Urca neighborhood. Located in the Catete neighborhood, the palace was the seat of the federal government from February 24, 1897, until April 21, 1960, when the capital was transferred to Brasília. Realengo is located approximately twenty-five miles from the center of Rio de Janeiro. Actually, the planned third act never even began, due to the failure of the plan to bring ample munitions from the Fortaleza de São João, also located in the Urca neighborhood (see Cukierman, Yes, Nós Temos Pasteur, 303).

  • 31. Glauco Carneiro, História das Revoluções Brasileiras, vol. 1 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Edições O Cruzeiro, 1965), 147–148.

  • 32. Dantas Barreto, Conspirações (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Livraria Francisco Alves, 1917), 26–27.

  • 33. Barreto, Conspirações; and Carneiro, História das Revoluções Brasileiras.

  • 34. Port Arthur was the Russian fort that fiercely resisted a Japanese siege during the Japanese-Russian War of 1904.

  • 35. Depósito Square is currently the Praça dos Estivadores.

  • 36. Jornal do Commercio, November 17, 1904.

  • 37. See note 17.

  • 38. Leonardo Pereira, As Barricadas da Saúde: Vacina e Protesto Popular no Rio de Janeiro da Primeira República (São Paulo, Brazil: Editora Perseu Abramo, 2002), 86–87.

  • 39. See Thiago Vinícius Mantuano da Fonseca, “A Região Portuária do Rio de Janeiro no Século XIX: Aspectos Demográficos e Sociais,” Almanack, no. 21 (April 2019): 199.

  • 40. Acre is a state in the northern region of Brazil, extremely far from Rio de Janeiro and difficult to reach at that time, nicknamed the “Siberia of Brazil.” See Silva (2011). A Notícia, December 27, 1904.

  • 41. Lima Barreto, Recordações do escrivão Isaias Caminha (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: A. de Azevedo & Costa Editores, 1917), 199. The book was first published in 1909.

  • 42. Carvalho, Os Bestializados, 125.

  • 43. Jeffrey D. Needell, “The Revolta Contra Vacina of 1904: The Revolt Against ‘Modernization’ in Belle-Époque Rio de Janeiro,” Hispanic American Historical Review 67, no. 2 (May 1987): 266.

  • 44. Afonso Arinos de Melo Franco, Rodrigues Alves, vol. 1 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: José Olympio, 1973), 402.

  • 45. Boris Fausto, Trabalho Urbano e Conflito Social (1890–1920) (São Paulo, Brazil: Difel, 1977), 59–60.

  • 46. Edgard Carone, A Primeira República (1889–1930) (São Paulo, Brazil: Difel, 1969), 42.

  • 47. Carone, A Primeira República, 43.

  • 48. Lima Barreto, Diário Íntimo (São Paulo, Brazil: Brasiliense, 1961), 47–48.

  • 49. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 271–313.

  • 50. Ania Loomba, Colonialism/Postcolonialism (New York: Routledge, 1998), 243.

  • 51. Carvalho, Os Bestializados, 126.

  • 52. Sevcenko, A Revolta da Vacina, 9.

  • 53. Sevcenko, A Revolta da Vacina, 67.

  • 54. Sevcenko, A Revolta da Vacina, 67.

  • 55. Carvalho, Os Bestializados, 129.

  • 56. Campos Sales was president of Brazil from 1898 to 1902.

  • 57. Paulo de Frontin was the engineer who led the urban reform. Carvalho, Os Bestializados, 129.

  • 58. Carvalho, Os Bestializados, 131.

  • 59. Carvalho, Os Bestializados, 136.

  • 60. Carvalho, Os Bestializados, 138–139. It is worth noting that while the defense of citizens’ rights was victorious in forcing the rollback of the mandatory vaccination order, it seems to have been unable to make any effective effort to protect its main combatants from the clutches of the fierce repression that followed the revolt.

  • 61. Sidney Chalhoub, Cidade Febril: Cortiços e Epidemias na Corte Imperial (São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 1996), 99.

  • 62. Chalhoub, Cidade Febril, 100.

  • 63. Martha de Abreu Esteves, Meninas Perdidas: As Populares e o Cotidiano do Amor no Rio de Janeiro da Belle Époque (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Paz e Terra, 1989), 100.

  • 64. Pedro Cantisano, “Lares, Tribunais e Ruas: A Inviolabilidade de Domicílio e a Revolta da Vacina,” Direito & Práxis 6, no. 11 (2015): 309. See also Article 72 of the 1891 Constitution.

  • 65. Cantisano, “Lares, Tribunais e Ruas,” 318, 319.

  • 66. Chalhoub, Cidade Febril, 101–102.

  • 67. Chalhoub, Cidade Febril, 151.

  • 68. A similar explanation was offered by Frédérique Marglin (in “Smallpox in Two Systems of Knowledge,” in Dominating Knowledge: Development, Culture, and Resistance, ed. Frédérique A. Marglin and Stephen A. Marglin [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990], 104–105) in his analysis of the history of smallpox vaccination in India following the colonial British government’s 1865 prohibition of variolation (smallpox inoculation) and subsequent attempt to impose mandatory vaccination, which, as in Brazil, provoked enormous popular resistance. Variolation was part of the rituals of the goddess Sitala, who, like Omulu, governs both the disease and its cure. “Sitala when angry and heated up is the diseased person, quite literally. When pacified and cooled she is the cured patient and the beatific and beautiful woman represented in her iconography . . . Such an understanding of disease prevents a search and destroy response. There is no enemy to be eradicated” (Marglin, “Smallpox in Two Systems of Knowledge,” 123).

  • 69. Chalhoub, Cidade Febril, 151

  • 70. Chalhoub, Cidade Febril, 149.

  • 71. An example is the case of variolation practiced in Constantinople, a method of fighting smallpox popularized in the West during the 18th century by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, wife of the English ambassador to the Ottoman Turks. In her visits to the city’s mosques and harems, she encountered the smallpox inoculation, a process commonly used in the Ottoman Empire to prevent the disease.

  • 72. Rui Barbosa, Ditadura e República (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Guanabara, 1932), 125.

  • 73. Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” 287.

  • 74. Passage from Lauro Sodré’s speech on the same occasion at which Vicente de Souza spoke at the Working Classes Center (Correio da Manhã, November 6, 1904).

  • 75. Judith Butler, in Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (New York: Routledge, 1993), 2, considers that “the matter of bodies will be indissociable from the regulatory norms that govern their materialization and the signification of those material effects,” which allows her to propose, quite provocatively, that rather than being determined by the body, sex is defined by the “cultural norm which governs the materialization of bodies” (3).

  • 76. Donna J. Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991), 177–178.

  • 77. Robert G. Nachman, “Positivism and Revolution in Brazil’s First Republic: The 1904 Revolt,” Americas 34, no. 1 (July 1977): 21.

  • 78. Teresa A. Meade, “Civilizing” Rio: Reform and Resistance in a Brazilian City, 1889–1930 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997), 111–112.

  • 79. Carvalho, Os Bestializados.

  • 80. Edward Jenner, Vaccination against Smallpox (New York: Prometheus Books, 1996), 15. The term “virus” was used in the sense of a harmful agent or poison, as it was used in Roman times.

  • 81. Established in 1754 as the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce, it was recognized with a Royal Charter in 1847 and received the right to use the term “Royal” in its name in 1908 from King Edward VII.

  • 82. Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987), 88–90.

  • 83. Quoted in Anne–Marie Moulin, “La métaphore vaccine,” in L’aventure humaine de la vaccination, ed. Anne–Marie Moulin (Paris: Fayard, 1996), 138–139.

  • 84. Moulin, “La métaphore vaccine,” 139.

  • 85. Moulin, “La métaphore vaccine,” 133–142.

  • 86. Moulin, “La métaphore vaccine,” 134.

  • 87. Moulin, “La métaphore vaccine,” 139.

  • 88. Plácido Barbosa, and Cassio Barbosa Rezende, Os Serviços de Saúde Pública no Brasil, especialmente na Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, 1808 a 1907 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Imprensa Nacional, 1909), 443.

  • 89. Latour, Science in Action, 183–184, 212–213.

  • 90. There were no women scientists. A technoscientific fact or artifact becomes a black box when it acquires enough stability to be considered uncontroversial.

  • 91. The word “congeries” is derived from Latin, meaning “formless mass, heap.” Brazil Médico ano XVIII, no. 32 (August 22, 1904): 334–335.

  • 92. Latour, Science in Action, 132–144.

  • 93. Latour, Science in Action, 134–135.

  • 94. Latour, Science in Action, 135–136. The principle of asymmetry was proposed by David Bloor in Knowledge and Social Imagery (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976).

  • 95. There are various examples of users putting a certain technology to unexpected uses. For example, see the case of the telephone examined by Judy Wajcman in “Feminist Theories of Technology,” in Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, ed. Sheila Jasanoff, Gerald Markle, James Petersen, and Trevor Pinch (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1994), 199.

  • 96. The Instituto Vacínico Municipal (Municipal Vaccine Institute) was established in 1887 for the manufacture and administration of the smallpox vaccine in the Federal District. Toledo Dodsworth, “Hygiene Pública–Notas sobre a vaccinação e a vacina,” Brazil Médico ano XVIII, no. 12 (March 22, 1904), 115–118.

  • 97. Latour, Science in Action, 137.

  • 98. Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” 284.

  • 99. See note 74.

  • 100. Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women, 196.

  • 101. O Malho, November 26, 1904.

  • 102. Passage from the poem “Navio Negreiro” by Castro Alves, used as an epigraph in this report, published by the Correio da Manhã on December 28, 1904.