Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Carlina de la Cova


This research investigates the biological effects of racialization on migrants in late nineteenth and early twentieth century St. Louis, Missouri. Racialization is a form of structural violence in which real or perceived physical differences contribute to the creation of hierarchical racial categories along a continuum of whiteness. German and Irish immigrants and African American migrants from the South came to St. Louis in search of economic prosperity and in an attempt to escape poverty, famine, or conflict in their places of origin. However, racialization affected each migrant group’s access to housing and employment as well as their exposure to violence. These variable experiences with inequality and discrimination likely effected the prevalence of skeletal manifestations of pathology both among the migrant groups and between Missouri-born and migrant groups based on their position along the continuum of whiteness. Hypotheses were tested through skeletal observations of trauma, tuberculosis, vitamin D deficiency, and dental disease and disruption in a sample of 433 individuals from the Robert J. Terry Anatomical Skeletal Collection. Using a biocultural approach, data were contextualized in their historical environment to better understand the ways that intersectional identity exposed migrant and Missouri-born groups to structural violence. This research demonstrates that low socioeconomic status exposed all individuals to an increased risk of disease, but social mechanisms related to racialization contributed to additional adverse experiences that resulted in differential pathological outcomes.


© 2020, Kristina M. Zarenko

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Anthropology Commons