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Week 8

Theme 2 Race, medicine and national identities: Subjects, citizens, and ‘civilization’

Week 8

Imperial medicine and the ‘civilising mission’

Building on last week’s examination of race and science, today, we will look at the historical roots of the contemporary relationship between medicine, identity, and technology. How did medicine (and medical professionals) come to have moral authority, and to be involved in national and international politics and policy making? And how has medical involvement in global politics in the past shaped the national and international politics of identity today?


Seminar topic:

Think about the ways in which race and science intersected with the ideologies and practices of empire building. Could the great European empires have survived into the 20th century without the sciences of race? How do medicine and the aftermaths of empire intersect today (if at all)?

Required Reading:

Tip: Read the Worboys article first, then Anderson, then Ticktin.


  • Miriam Ticktin, ‘Medical Humanitarianism in and Beyond France: Breaking Down or Patrolling Borders’, in Alison Bashford, ed., Medicine at the Border: Disease, Globalization and Security, 1850 to the Present (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006): SHORT LOAN
  • Michael Worboys, ‘The Colonial World as Mission and Mandate: Leprosy and Empire, 1900-1940’, Osiris, 2nd Series, Vol. 15, Nature and Empire: Science and the Colonial Enterprise (2000), pp. 207-218 JSTOR
  • Warwick Anderson, ‘Excremental Colonialism: Public Health and the poetics of pollution’, Critical Inquiry 21: 3 (Spring 1995): 640-669 JSTOR

Background and Further Reading:

The Berlin Exhibition of Hygiene in 1882-83’, Science, Vol. 6, No. 127 (Jul. 10, 1885), pp. 36-37. JSTOR

Michael Adas, Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989)

Warwick Anderson, Colonial Pathologies: American Tropical Medicine, Race, and Hygiene in the Philippines, (Durham NC.: Duke University Press, 2006): Chapters 2,6,7.

Morag Bell, 'The Pestilence That Walketh in Darkness'. Imperial Health, Gender and Images of South Africa c. 1880-1910’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series, Vol. 18, No. 3 (1993), pp. 327-341 JSTOR

Rudolf Mrazek "Let Us Become Radio Mechanics": Technology and National Identity in Late-Colonial Netherlands East Indies Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Jan., 1997), pp. 3-33

Nancy Ordover, ‘National Hygiene: Twentieth Century Immigration and the Eugenics Lobby’, in Ordover, American Eugenics: Queer Anatomy and the Science of Nationalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003) pp. 1-56.

James C. Scott, John Tehranian and Jeremy Mathias The Production of Legal Identities Proper to States: The Case of the Permanent Family Surname’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Jan., 2002), pp. 4-44

Ronen Shamir and Daphna Hacker, Colonialism's Civilizing Mission: The Case of the Indian Hemp Drug Commission’, Law & Social Inquiry, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Spring, 2001), pp. 435-461 JSTOR

Lynn M. Thomas, ‘Imperial Concerns and 'Women's Affairs': State Efforts to Regulate Clitoridectomy and Eradicate Abortion in Meru, Kenya, c. 1910-1950’, The Journal of African History, Vol. 39, No. 1 (1998), pp. 121-145 JSTOR

Luise White, ‘The Traffic in Heads: Bodies, Borders and the Articulation of Regional Histories’, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 23, No. 2, (Jun., 1997), pp. 325-338

Ann Zulawski, ‘Hygiene and "The Indian Problem": Ethnicity and Medicine in Bolivia, 1910-1920’, Latin American Research Review, Vol. 35, No. 2 (2000), pp. 107-129.