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Chapter 2 - Marie Laveau’s Generational Arts

Healing and Midwifery in New Orleans

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2023

Mary Grace Albanese
Affiliation:
SUNY Binghamton
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Summary

Chapter 2, “Marie Laveau’s Generational Arts: Healing and Midwifery in New Orleans,” turns from Saint Domingue to the immigrant communities of New Orleans many of whom were of Haitian heritage. Through an excavation of the myth and legacy of New Orleans “voodoo queen” Marie Laveau, I argue that Laveau renegotiated her body as capital, resisting social, cultural, and legal forces that sought to commodify, exoticize, or criminalize her. Instead, she became a community leader, healer, and possibly a midwife. Situating Laveau within a longer genealogy of Black women’s birthwork and midwifery within the nineteenth-century US South and circum-Caribbean, this chapter argues for alternative ways of imagining reproduction, kinship, and energy economies. Ultimately, it puts pressure on the myriad myths surrounding Laveau’s dynastic legacy, drawing attention away from white heteropatriarchal logics of touristic consumption, and instead allowing for bodily autonomy, love among women, and the notion of gestation and labor as an autoregenerating, independent economy.

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