The “Cholera Cloud” in the Nineteenth-Century “British World”: History of an Object-Without-an-Essence
Abstract

Summary:

The “cholera cloud” is one of the most persistent presences in the archives of nineteenth-century cholera in the “British World.” Yet it has seldom received anything more than a passing acknowledgment from historians of cholera. Tracing the history of the cholera cloud as an object promises to open up a new dimension of the historically contingent experience of cholera, as well as make a significant contribution to the emergent literature on “thing theory.” By conceptualizing the cholera cloud as an object-without-an-essence, this article demonstrates how global cholera pandemics in the nineteenth century produced globalized objects in which a near-universal recognizability and an utterly context-specific set of meanings, visions, and realities could ironically cohabit.