Claudia Jeanne Ford, PhD, is a 2015 graduate of the PhD Program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee

Alesia Maltz, PhD, Committee Chair
James W. Jordan, PhD, Committee Member
Yuriko Saito, PhD, Committee Member
Herman H. Shugart, PhD, Committee Member


traditional ecological knowledge, ethnobotany, women's reproductive health plants, midwifery, childbirth, Atlantic history, Native American herbal medicine, African American herbal medicine

Document Type


Publication Date



This dissertation critiques the discourse of traditional ecological knowledge described as embedded in indigenous peoples' longevity in location, for the purpose of understanding the embodiment of ecological knowledge in culture. The aim of this research is to examine the historical and epistemic complexity of traditional ecological knowledge that may be both established from the length of time people reside in a specific ecosystem and constitutive of negotiations between and among different cultures. I choose the specific case of the negotiation of plant knowledge for women's reproductive health among Native, African, and European groups as those negotiations unfolded on the American continent from European settlement in the early 17th century to the post-Emancipation period of the early 20th century. By focusing on ethnobotanical accounts of women's reproductive health knowledge I explain how this knowledge persisted or changed as people moved, and how this knowledge might have been created through negotiations across cultural boundaries. It is my contention that traditional ecological knowledge is simultaneously maintained and altered through peoples migrations and negotiations. To test this contention I ask a number of key questions from my analysis of historical ethnogynecological evidence. To what extent is traditional ecological knowledge embodied in people and to what extent is it emplaced in an ecosystem? How is the traditional ecological knowledge of longevity in place different from traditional ecological knowledge that shifts as people migrate? What is the evidence that traditional ecological knowledge is formed through negotiations across boundaries of culture, race, and epistemology, and does this change the framing of traditional ecological knowledge discourse? My research conceives of a discourse of traditional ecological knowledge that explicitly addresses issues of both ecologically emplaced knowledge and culturally embedded knowledge. I demonstrate that an understanding of traditional ecological knowledge formulated on the way knowledge moves and is shared provides a fuller and more dynamic discourse of traditional ecological knowledge.


Orcid Scholar ID