Critical Bodies: Gender, Disability and Slavery in Early Republic Virginia


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




“Critical Bodies: Gender, Disability and Slavery in Early Republic Virginia” interrogates the intersections between disability, gender, communities, and law in the early American Republic. This project reveals disablement in age and gender, and the body/mind. Enslaved people with disabilities endured market classification based on racialized perceptions of their body’s ability and enslavers’ labor and economic demands. Central to this research are the expansions of capitalism and law in Virginia. Slave law was a vertex for white wealth aspiration and Black resistance to slavery. Although prior scholars examined the legal apparatus and practices of a slave society, the added consideration of disability expands knowledge on enslaved and freed Black people’s use of disablement when challenging law and the slave market. This project further reveals the efforts of slaves and freed slaves to constitute community and provide support to their disabled kin in the face of violent extraction.