Health consumerism in the modern sense speaks to patients’ involvement in their own healthcare decisions. How does this concept apply to enslaved laborers in the antebellum South? Anthropologist Lori Lee’s study of enslaved African Americans in central Virginia looks at the degree of access they had to resources that shaped their health and well-being experiences. The nature of health and illness is multilayered. It is influenced by an individual’s personal experience with their physical body, including their mind; by how the body is socially represented in various symbolic and metaphorical forms; and by regulation, surveillance, and control of one’s reproduction and sexuality, work and leisure, and sickness. Lee’s presentation uses this multi-layered approach to explore practices of health and healthcare among the enslaved laborers in the antebellum South.
Lori Lee is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Flagler College. Her research focuses on the archaeology of the African diaspora, gender, memory, and material culture.