May 17, 2023

EP. 319 — How Did New Orleans Become New Orleans? (Part One) with Dr. Kathryn Olivarius

New Orleans is a city in a swamp—a city, some argue, that should have never been built. So how did it become one of America’s most important sites in the 1800s, and a critical battleground in the American Civil War? This week, to mark the new season of Queer Eye, we’re exploring New Orleans history with Dr. Kathryn Olivarius in a special two-part episode. Today, we’re breaking down the basics on antebellum New Orleans. Tomorrow, we’ll learn all about New Orleans’ rampant history of yellow fever.

A note from the team: this episode discusses enslavement and references to bodily harm.

Kathryn Olivarius is a prizewinning historian of slavery, medicine, and disease. She is Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University. Her book Necropolis: Disease, Power, and Capitalism in the Cotton Kingdom, published by Harvard University Press, was recently awarded the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize.

You can follow Dr. Olivarius on Twitter @katolivarius. Harvard University Press is on Twitter @Harvard_Press.

If you’re new to Getting Curious, here are some episodes that are relevant to today’s discussion:


When Viruses Spread, Who’s Most Vulnerable?

What’s The Sordid History Of U.S. Trash Collection?
Who Does America’s “Child Welfare System” Serve?

Who Built The Panama Canal?

How F$^*#d Up Is Fatphobia?

Follow us on Instagram @CuriousWithJVN to join the conversation. Jonathan is on Instagram @JVN.


Transcripts for each episode are available at

Find books from past Getting Curious guests at; we’ll be updating it soon with more releases!


Our executive producer is Erica Getto. Our editor is Andrew Carson. Production support from Julie Carrillo, Chris McClure, and Emily Bossak.


Our theme music is “Freak” by QUIÑ; for more, head to


Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness & Kathryn Olivarius    JVN [00:00:00] Welcome to Getting Curious. This is Jonathan Van Ness and every week I sit down with a brilliant expert to learn all about something that makes me curious. Today, to mark the new season of Queer Eye, yay! It’s finally happening, y’all been asking us a lot. We’re exploring the history of New Orleans. If you’re new to Getting Curious podcasts, consider this your orientation, honey. I’m going to be referring to some of our favorite episodes throughout this discussion. Then we link them in the episode description so you can listen to those later on, if you’re into that. We have more than 300 conversations about science, history, politics and beyond. Waiting for you in the archives. “Get into it, yuh,” as Doja Cat would say. And if you want to keep up with our guests and topics and see behind the scenes of the show, even just follow other news stories that we’re kind of k

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