On one Dominican estate, nearly half the slaves were "carried off in a few years" from earth-eating, while more than one Louisiana plantation was purportedly abandoned altogether due to the "extensive mortality, resulting .
Yet surely earth-eating stands out distinctly among other such techniques for more intimately entwining survival with self-destruction: one nourishes oneself, over time, with the very thing that may well also bring about one's demise.
Only in the 1970s did anthropologists finally begin in significant numbers to point out that earth-eating was a common practice in many societies around the world, and need not be deemed a pathology at all.
Earth-eating, or geophagy, became categorized as one of the many forms of pica, or "the eating of nutritional, nonfood items in a compulsive way"--hence, an "eating disorder" meriting nutritional or psychiatric counseling.
In this account, earth-eating might be conceived as an actual cure for nostalgia--at least by those engaging in it.
Clearly, then, Chesnutt draws on many of the actual meanings attributed to African-American earth-eating in his tale of Lonesome Ben.
Nostalgia, like the slaves' earth-eating (which, as we will see, was at times ascribed to a condition of nostalgia among them) has most often been seen simply as a form of unreflective self-indulgence.
In other instances, the nostalgic deliberately sought to end his own life--and, similarly, some argued that earth-eating was consciously practiced by slaves as a means of suicide (Starobinski 90).
21) What I want to argue here, then, is that a closer attention to the specific meanings of Ben's earth-eating in itself might enable a more multilayered approach to the individual's encounter with historical time.
27) We see here, as in the earth-eating articles, the familiar explanatory poles of biology vs.