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African agency, Indigenous medicine & the professionalisation Modern medicine

Under construction

Lecture: Dr Doreen Kembabazi


Written accounts in the 19th century show that prior to the development of Western ‘modern’ medicine in Africa, African indigenous doctors had already developed remarked modern medical knowledge system and were already performing complicated surgical procedures such as C-sections and amputations. Despite this the indigenous medical practitioners who were often referred to as ‘witch doctors’ were excluded from the colonial medical system. The hostile, racist attitudes towards indigenous practitioners was extended to the first African practitioners of Western medicine who struggled to be accepted. This week, we will examine colonial narratives and discourses about indigenous medical systems, the quest for acceptable by African pioneers of Western ‘modern’ medicine, and their role in establishing of Western ‘modern’ medicine in Africa.

Required Readings

J.N.P Davies. The development of ‘scientific’ medicine in the African kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara, Medical History, 3, (1959), pp 47-57

John Illife, East African Doctors: A History of the Modern Profession, pp 1-33

Adelola Adeloye. Some early Nigerian doctors and their contribution to modern medicine in West Africa, Medical History (1974) 18 (3) pp 275-293

Recommended Primary Source:

R. W. Felkin "Notes on Labour in Central Africa" published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal, volume 20, April 1884, pages 922-930.

David Livingstone. Missionary travels and Researches in South Africa: p1857 (A short conversation in Chapter 1 page 1857 between Livingstone aka ‘Medical doctor’ and an Indigenous Doctor aka ‘Rain Doctor’)

Further Readings:

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

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, 18 (1993), 327-341 JSTOR

Bryan Callahan, “‘Veni, VD, Vici’? Reassessing the Ila Syphilis Epidemic,” Journal of Southern African Studies, 23.3 (1997), pp. 421-440.

Jean Comaroff, “The Diseased Heart of Africa: Medicine, Colonialism, and the Black Body,” in Shirley Lindenbaum and Margaret Lock (eds.), Knowledge, Power, and Practice: The Anthropology of Medicine and Everyday Life (1993), pp. 305-329.

Waltraud Ernst and Bernard Harris (eds), Race, Science, and Medicine, 1700-1960 (London, 1999).

Feierman, S., ‘Struggles for Control: The Social Roots of Health and Healing in Modern Africa’, African Studies Review, 28.2/3 (1985), 73-147.

Karen Flint, 'Competition, Race, and Professionalization: Healers and White Medical Practitioners in Natal, South Africa in the Early Twentieth Century', Social History of Medicine, 14.2 (2001), 199-221 (e-journal)

Karen Flint, Healing Traditions: African Medicine, Cultural Exchange, and Competition in South Africa, 1820-1948 (2008).

Nancy Rose Hunt, “‘Le Bebe en Brousse’: European Women, African Birth Spacing and Colonial Intervention in Breast Feeding in the Belgian Congo,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 21.3 (1988), pp. 401-432.

Nancy Hunt, A Colonial Lexicon of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo

John Illife, East African Doctors: A History of the Modern Profession

Maryinez Lyons, The Colonial Disease. A Social History of Sleeping Sickness in Northern Zaire, 1900-1940 (Cambridge, 1992). Ch. 7: The campaign. Part one: sleeping sickness and social medicine, pp. 102-136

Adam Mohr, 'Missionary Medicine and Akan Therapeutics: Illness, Health and Healing in Southern Ghana's Basel Mission, 1828-1918', Journal of Religion in Africa Vol. 39, Fasc. 4 (2009), pp. 429-461

Maryinez Lyons, The Colonial Disease: A Social History of Sleeping Sickness in Northern Zaire, 1900-1940 (Cambridge, 1992). E-book

Roy Macleod and Milton Lewis (eds), Disease, Medicine and Empire: Perspectives on Western Medicine and the Experience of European Expansion (London, 1988).

Marissa Mika Africanizing Oncology Creativity, Crisis, and Cancer in Uganda

Nakanyike Musisi,The Politics of Perception or Perception as Politics? Colonial and Missionary Representations of Baganda Women, 1900–1945

Randall Packard, “The Invention of the ‘Tropical Worker’: Medical Research and the Quest for Central African Labor on the South African Gold Mines, 1903-36,” Journal of African History, 34 (1993), pp. 271-292.

Jonathan Sadowsky, 'Psychiatry and Colonial Ideology in Nigeria', Bulletin of the History of Medicine 71 (1997), 94-111 E-Journal

Carol Summers. Intimate Colonialism: The Imperial Production of Reproduction in Uganda, 1907-1925

Jennifer Tappan. The Riddle of Malnutrition: The Long Arc of Biomedical and Public Health Interventions in Uganda

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, 39, (1998), 121-145 JSTOR

Megan Vaughan, Curing Their Ills (Stanford, 1991).

Megan Vaughan, ‘Healing and Curing: Issues in the Social History and Anthropology of Medicine in Africa’, Social History of Medicine, 7 (1994), pp. 283-295. E-journal

Megan Vaughan, Curing Their Ills (Stanford, 1991); Chapter 6: Syphilis Medicine and the Limits of Colonial Medical Power

Luise White. Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa

Luise White, “‘They Could Make Their Victims Dull’: Genders and Genres, Fantasies and Cures in Colonial Southern Uganda,” American Historical Review, 100.5 (Dec 1995), pp. 1379-1402.