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Global Health (Howard Chiang)

This seminar brings together the research agendas of two research centres in the history department: the Global History and Culture Centre and the Centre for the History of Medicine. Specifically, it does so by focusing on the history and cultures of ‘global health’, a concept that has risen to prominence in recent years within policy and research settings. While we will not be able to cover all facets of global health history in a single seminar, we will try to address some of its major themes through selected readings: infectious diseases (plagues, cholera, smallpox, HIV/AIDS, SARS, etc.), colonial and tropical medicine (including theories of race), mental and reproductive health, and institutions and organizations (e.g., the International Red Cross, the Rockefeller Foundation, the League of Nations Health Organization, the World Health Organization, and Biopolis).


  1. Is global health postcolonial? To what degree does this unifying framework mask or anchor the re-packaging of earlier institutions and agendas, such as 'tropical medicine' and the subsequent 'international health'?

  2. Does scholarly engagement with 'global health' risk merely echoing our historical subjects' worldviews, and to what extent does it garner a new analytic lens?

  3. What are some of the priorities of global health that help us exceed the limitations of global history or the history of medicine? On the contrary, do global history and the history of medicine converge or diverge in ways beyond the nexus of global health?



Theodore M. Brown, Marcos Cueto, and Elizabeth Fee, “The World Health Organization and the Transition from ‘International’ to ‘Global’ Public Health,” American Journal of Public Health 96, no. 1 (2006): 62-72.

Andrew Lakoff, “Two Regimes of Global Health,” Humanity 1, no. 1 (2010): 59-79.

Warwick Anderson, “Making Global Health History,” Social History of Medicine 27, no. 2 (2014): 372-384.

Cindy Patton, “From Colonial Medicine to World Health,” in Globalizing AIDS (University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 27-50.

Alice Bullard, “Imperial Networks and Postcolonial Independence: The Transition from Colonial to Transcultural Psychiatry,” in Psychiatry and Empire, ed. Sloan Mahone and Megan Vaughan (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 197-219.


Paul Farmer, Jim Yong Kim, Arthur Kleinman, and Matthew Basilico, Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).

João Biehl and Adriana Petryna, eds., When People Come First: Critical Studies in Global Health (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013).

For additional references, please consult the seminar tutor.