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Sex, Sickness, and SlaveryIllness in the Antebellum South$
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Marli F. Weiner and Mazie Hough

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036996

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036996.001.0001

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Ambiguous Bodies

Ambiguous Bodies

(p.93) Chapter 4 Ambiguous Bodies
Sex, Sickness, and Slavery

Marli F. Weiner

Mazie Hough

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines physicians' efforts to understand various types of anomalous bodies. Southern physicians who recognized race, sex, and place as essential aspects of bodies had to acknowledge that these categories were not always precisely defined. People could move from the North or from Europe to the South or from one place to another within it. Although custom and law defined all slaves as black, medicine was aware that interracial sex led to many bodies that combined the blood and thus the characteristics of the two races. Far less common, but certainly compelling to doctors, were bodies that exhibited aspects of both male and female. Physicians determined to define what was normal believed that studying bodies that fell between categories could help them understand health and illness. This chapter explores how southern physicians addressed the intellectual dilemmas posed by bodies of mixed race and by the ambiguous nature of women's bodies. It also considers how physicians thought about the maternal influence on the health of the fetus during the course of pregnancy.

Keywords:   physicians, anomalous bodies, women's bodies, medicine, interracial sex, health, illness, mixed race, maternal influence, pregnancy

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