Dustin Valen – Tropical Fears, Fumigants, and the American Home

21 October 2022 – 12:30-14:00 BST

In-person only. Organised and convened by Tanya Southcott and Tilo Amhoff. Seaside 2, 3rd Floor Mithras House, Lewes Road, Brighton, UK.

Dustin Valen is an historian and design educator currently teaching at McGill University and Carleton University in Canada. Dustin joins us for a research conversation session this week, alongside Danny Bettay.


This paper examines American-led efforts to eradicate yellow fever in Cuba at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the concomitant rise of insect control technologies for use in domestic interiors throughout the continental United States. I argue that tropical fears enshrined military knowledge in progressive-era debates over the cleanliness of American homes through a dialogical knowledge network encompassing popular architectural periodicals, home decorating journals, and women’s domestic literature. The project elucidates how tropical imperialism created settings for the development and testing of environmental technologies, as well as how technological transfers exacerbated social cleavages by seating racially motivated colonial science and ecological fears in American attitudes towards cities and homes.

About Dustin

Dustin Valen is an historian and design educator currently teaching at McGill University and Carleton University. His research and teaching addresses the intersection of architecture, imperialism, and the environment during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and spans several geographies, including Canada, Britain, and the United States. He is particularly interested in how architectural responses to climate shape socio-natural and socio-political boundaries in colonial settings, and in how material cultures of climate intersect discursively with narratives about race and health in architecture. His dissertation manuscript, “Climatizing Empire: Race, Landscape, and Colonial Nationalism in Newfoundland,” explores how the built environment situated Anglo-Saxon racial identities in a former colony by causing its landscape to mirror Britain’s own. In support of his doctoral research program he was awarded a Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Doctoral Scholarship by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Dustin has presented original research papers across Canada and internationally and has published essays in such topical forums as the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Architecture Beyond Europe, Urban History Review, RACAR, and the Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada. His research has been recognized through numerous grants and awards, including from the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, and Memorial University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research, among others. He is the recipient of the 2017 Founders’ JSAH Article Award for his contribution to the society’s journal. Originally from Vancouver Island, Dustin holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design Studies and Master of Architecture from Dalhousie University (2006, 2009) and a Post-professional Master of Architecture from the University of Toronto (2013). He completed his PhD in Architecture at McGill University in 2019. As an Intern Architect, Dustin has worked in architectural offices across Canada and in Australia. He currently maintains a small practice and has overseen projects ranging from the design of exhibit environments for museums and cultural institutions to the design and fabrication of stage sets for independent theatre productions.

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