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Medicalizing Blackness

Making Racial Difference in the Atlantic World, 1780-1840

By Rana A. Hogarth

290 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3287-2
    Published: October 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3286-5
    Published: October 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3288-9
    Published: September 2017

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In 1748, as yellow fever raged in Charleston, South Carolina, doctor John Lining remarked, “There is something very singular in the constitution of the Negroes, which renders them not liable to this fever.” Lining’s comments presaged ideas about blackness that would endure in medical discourses and beyond. In this fascinating medical history, Rana A. Hogarth examines the creation and circulation of medical ideas about blackness in the Atlantic World during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. She shows how white physicians deployed blackness as a medically significant marker of difference and used medical knowledge to improve plantation labor efficiency, safeguard colonial and civic interests, and enhance control over black bodies during the era of slavery.

Hogarth refigures Atlantic slave societies as medical frontiers of knowledge production on the topic of racial difference. Rather than looking to their counterparts in Europe who collected and dissected bodies to gain knowledge about race, white physicians in Atlantic slaveholding regions created and tested ideas about race based on the contexts in which they lived and practiced. What emerges in sharp relief is the ways in which blackness was reified in medical discourses and used to perpetuate notions of white supremacy.

About the Author

Rana A. Hogarth is assistant professor of history at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
For more information about Rana A. Hogarth, visit the Author Page.


"A useful book for historians interested in the intersections between race and disability, the overlaps between disease and disability, and the power of the medical profession in shaping the understandings of so-called different bodies."--H-Net

"Rana A. Hogarth offers an original and distinctive perspective on the formation of race in the Atlantic World, exploring how medical discourse served to propagate ideas of innate racial difference. Medicalizing Blackness is a welcome addition to studies of medicine and slavery in the Greater Caribbean."--Sharla M. Fett, author of Working Cures: Healing, Health, and Power on Southern Slave Plantations

"Medicalizing Blackness provides an important and interesting comparative study of the medical exploitation of slaves in South Carolina and Jamaica. The pages of this study are filled with great treasures from a variety of sources."--Londa Schiebinger, author of Secret Cures of Slaves