Elaine LaFay, University of Pennsylvania
Marguerite Bartlett Hamer Dissertation Fellow
“Atmospheric Bodies: Medicine, Meteorology, and the Cultivation of Place in the Antebellum Gulf South”
My research investigates the relationship between health, place, and empire in the 19th century U.S. I am especially interested in how this relationship manifested in the U.S. Gulf South — from East Texas to Florida — which was a place at once paradisiacal and pathological, known as much for salubrity as for disease. My dissertation, entitled “Atmospheric Bodies: Medicine, Meteorology, and the Cultivation of Place in the Antebellum Gulf South,” asks how atmospheric and medical knowledge were entangled with American expansionist aims in the southeastern borderlands. In doing so, it explores racial and environmental imaginaries of the landscape, the land's corresponding physical transformations, and the reshaping of human bodies through everyday regimens of care and healing. This project has received support from a CLIR-Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Original Sources, a History of Science, Medicine, and Technology Fellowship at the American Philosophical Society, and a History of Science Fellowship from the American Meteorological Association. General research interests include the histories of the body, environment, surgery, disability, and gender and sexuality.