Christopher Willoughby

Tulane University

2014 to 2015
Research Fellow

Treating the Black Body: Race and Medicine in American Culture, 1800-1861

Abstract: Based in the writing of antebellum medical students, their senior theses in particular, this project analyzes the growing presence of racial science in medical education. It argues that the paradigm shift in early-nineteenth-century medical thought influenced by French anatomical pathology fertilized the ground for a multi-species biology of humanity. Moreover, racial science influenced medical education on a national scale and was not simply the scientific byproduct of southern racism. This thesis also situates racial science as existing in both the realm of politics and in the context of legitimate midcentury science. In making this argument, this dissertation focuses on three medical schools as test cases: the University of Pennsylvania, Transylvania University, and the Medical University of the State of South Carolina. Statistical and qualitative analysis of medical student theses at these universities will provide both general and particular images of how black bodies became anatomical bodies.