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Week 19: Medicine in Africa: Humanitarianism

Lecturer: Kathleen Vongsathorn

This week we will further explore the legacies of colonial medicine in contemporary Africa, through the lens of medical humanitarianism. We will explore continuities and changes in medical humanitarianism, from its missionary foundations to the present, with particular focus on the priorities and agendas that have shaped medical humanitarian intervention, and on the responses of local populations within Africa to these humanitarian initiatives. We will also discuss the extent to which these agendas were successfully or unsuccessfully fulfilled, from the perspective local recipients and foreign humanitarians.


Discussion/Essay Questions:

• What continuities are there between colonial medical humanitarianism and contemporarily medical humanitarianism? What changes?

• What priorities have shaped medical mission and medical humanitarianism? Whose priorities have these been?

• Why have the consequences of medical humanitarianism often been different from the intended outcome?


Required Readings:

Elisha Renne, The Politics of Polio in Northern Nigeria (Bloomington, 2010). Ch. 3: ‘Politics and Polio in Nigeria’, pp. 33-50. e-book

Kathleen Vongsathorn, “Public Health or Public Good? Humanitarian Agendas and the Treatment of Leprosy in Uganda,” in Bronwen Everill and Josiah Kaplan (eds.), The History and Practice of Humanitarian Intervention and Aid in Africa (2013), pp. 43-66. e-book

William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (2007). Ch. 7: The Healers: Triumph and Tragedy, pp. 211-236. [course extracts]


Further Readings:

Catherine Campbell, Letting them Die: Why HIV/AIDS Intervention Programmes Fail (Bloomington, 2003).

Charles Good, Jr., The Steamer Parish: The Rise and Fall of Missionary Medicine on an African Frontier (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2004).

David Hardiman, Healing Bodies, Saving Souls: Medical Missions in Asia and Africa (Amsterdam, 2006).

John Iliffe, The African AIDS Epidemic: A History (2006).

Paul Landau, ‘Explaining Surgical Evangelism in Colonial Southern Africa: Teeth, Pain and Faith’, Journal of African History, 37.2 (1996), 261-81.

Michael Jennings, ‘“A Matter of Vital Importance”: The Place of Medical Mission in Maternal and Child Healthcare in Tanganyika, 1919-39’, in David Hardiman, Healing Bodies, Saving Souls: Medical Missions in Asia and Africa (New York, 2006), pp. 227-50.

Michael Jennings, ‘Healing of Bodies, Salvation of Souls’: Missionary Medicine in Colonial Tanganyika, 1870s-1939’, Journal of Religion in Africa, 38 (2008), 27-56.

Randall Packard, The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).

Shobana Shankar, ‘Medical Missionaries and Modernizing Emirs in Colonial Hausaland’, Journal of African History 48 (2007), 45-68.

Shobana Shankar, ‘The Social Dimensions of Christian Leprosy Work among Muslims: American Missionaries and Young Patients in Colonial Northern Nigeria, 1920-40’, in Hardiman, D., Healing Bodies, Saving Souls: Medical Missions in Asia and Africa (Amsterdam, 2006), 281-305.

Nancy Leys Stepan, Eradication: Ridding the World of Diseases Forever? (Cornell, 2011).

Lynn Thomas, Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction, and the State in Kenya (Berkeley, 2003).

Kathleen Vongsathorn, ‘First and foremost the evangelist’? Mission and government priorities for the treatment of leprosy in Uganda, 1927-48’, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 6.3 (2012), 544-60.

Christine Walley, “Searching for ‘Voices’: Feminism, Anthropology, and the Global Debates over Female Genital Operations,” Cultural Anthropology, 12.3 (1997), pp. 405-438.