Dr. Cornelius's research examines the development of “racial science” during the nineteenth century. Her book manuscript titled /'More Approximate to the Animal:' African American Men and Women’s Resistance to the Rise of Scientific Racism in Mid-Nineteenth Century America/ provides a gendered analysis of the ways in which African Americans - enslaved and free, lettered and illiterate - addressed scientific theories of racial differences. Cornelius argues that a gendered analysis of the development of scientific racial discourse illuminates the ways in which the scientific constructions of human differences served racist, sexist, and imperialist political agendas.
Previous studies of racial science during the nineteenth century have ignored the centrality of scientific efforts to construct the black female body as a laboring body, one bereft of “motherly” instincts. Upon publication of the manuscript, Cornelius's next research project will focus on scientific constructions of black motherhood as they informed social policy makers between the mid nineteenth to late twentieth centuries.
Although it is clear that science historically has been misused, Cornelius encourages students to move beyond a simple vilification of science. Instead, they are challenged to consider the ways practitioners may use medicinal and scientific knowledge as a tool of resistance.