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Dissertation Proposal Defense for Lisa N. Bright
November 1, 2017 @ 2:15 pm - 4:15 pm
Life and Death in the Valley of Heart’s Delight: Understanding Health and Nutrition at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Historical Cemetery
Lisa N. Bright
There are many interconnected variables that directly impact an individual’s health, including but not limited to economic status, gender, ethnicity, environment, and access to care. Historical cemeteries are uniquely positioned to examine the biological impact of complex social situations. Archival sources have the potential to provide abundant contextual information regarding both the individuals buried in the cemetery, and the social systems and policies operating during their lives. The physical remains of the people themselves can provide direct evidence of the biological impact of long-term and episodic health stressors. The salvage nature of many historical cemetery excavations has limited the contextualization and integration of complex social theory. Additionally because most historic cemetery samples originate in the Midwest and East, they are limited based on the demographics of the region. This limitation has created both a regional and ethnic gap in knowledge. This dissertation will use archaeological, osteological, and historical data from the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) Historical Cemetery to investigate a segment of the historical U.S. population previously unexplored – the poor and non-European immigrants in California. The primary aim is to examine specific and non-specific indicators of health, while contextualizing the archaeological and osteological data with the socio-political context in which the pathological conditions occurred. Multiple theoretical paradigms including structural violence and epidemiological transitions will be used to provide possible explanations for the observed health patterns.