Elaine LaFay

Doctoral candidate
Entered 2011
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My research investigates the relationship between health and place 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, tentatively titled “Atmospheric Bodies: Medicine, Meteorology, and the Cultivation of Place in the Antebellum Gulf South,” asks how eighteenth and nineteenth century physicians, scientists, travelers, and residents sought to understand and transform the region. 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.

General research interests include the histories of the body (especially dead ones), environment, surgery, disability, and gender and sexuality. Before coming to Penn, I received a B.A. in History from the University of Michigan.