Meredith Reifschneider is an historical archaeologist who studies how different cultural groups and diverse communities navigate sustained periods of interaction with one another and the material practices that result from these interactions. Her research focuses on the social politics of medicine by asking, how is medical practice politicized in situations of social inequality? How are health and healthcare interpreted by actors in various positions of power? In addition to medical archaeology, Meredith’s research also intersects with critical geography, postcolonial theory, and gender studies.
Her previous research project interpreted Danish medical documents and archaeological materials from a 19th century plantation hospital on St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, to reconsider issues of health and wellness through the lens of Danish public health policy. This research questioned how health and wellness were viewed and practiced by various social groups to include the Danish government, European doctors, and enslaved African and African descendant nurses and patients. The goal of this project was to contextualize different values and interpretations of health and healthcare in lieu of larger social, political, and economic concerns.
Meredith is currently developing a similarly themed archaeological project with the Presidio Trust, at the Presidio of San Francisco, focusing on military medical practice during the American military period. She and her students are analyzing a large collection of 20th century objects recovered from the US Army enlisted men’s quarters. The research project is framed by questions concerning the role of illicit economies in everyday military life and the role of self-care practices within the broader context of institutional medicine.
Meredith received her PhD from Stanford University in 2017 and her M.A. from the University of Arizona. She has conducted archaeological fieldwork in Greece, Albania, the US Virgin Islands, and the Southwest US.