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Reifschneider, Meredith A.

Grant Type
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Completed Grant
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Project Title
Reifschneider, Meredith A., Stanford U., Stanford, CA - To aid research on 'Danish Colonial Healthcare Policy and Afro-Caribbean Healing Practices, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands,' supervised by Dr. Barbara Voss

Preliminary abstract: This proposal outlines an archaeological case study of a plantation hospital on St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, aimed at understanding how enslaved patients on St. Croix were impacted by colonial Danish healthcare initiatives passed during the 19th century. The proposed research challenges fundamental anthropological concerns by questioning the relationship between personhood and health: how do non-Western subaltern groups, who are most affected by the hegemonic influences of colonial healthcare models, attempt to overcome the dehumanizing aspects of imposed health measures? Did enslaved patients and healers create grounded practices of health and well-being that extended beyond the jurisdiction of the Danish state? To what extent were Danish healthcare policies, aimed at abating morbidity and mortality rates of enslaved individuals, implemented at the local level? To address these questions, I will integrate archival research on colonial period documents with archaeological materials excavated from a 19th century plantation hospital at Estate Cane Garden. Targeted analyses of faunal and macrobotanical remains, and starch residue and chemical analyses will be used to determine how enslaved healers and patients negotiated colonial understandings of medicine and well being. Contextual analyses of material culture recovered from the site will aid in understanding how material objects may have been incorporated into meaningful networks of healing and curing practices. This archaeological case study will make a significant contribution by developing a theoretical and methodological framework for studying colonial hospital sites by examining the interface between colonial medical policy and everyday practice across temporal and spatial scales.