P44


Society, medicine and history: new perspectives 
Convenorss:
Samiksha Sehrawat (Newcastle University)
Margret Frenz (University of Oxford)
Location:
22G74
Start time:
24 July, 2014 at 11:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
3

Short Abstract:

Bringing together early career and established scholars, the panel will explore new perspectives on the social history of medicine in colonial and post-colonial periods. Its focus is on marginal social groups, regional case studies, trans-national contexts and inter-disciplinary lenses.

Long Abstract

This panel brings together early career scholars and established scholars to explore new perspectives on the social history of medicine. Confirmed papers showcase the variety of methodological approaches in this field. Their focus is on marginal social groups such as adivasis and women, how interactions between the colonial state and the colonized shaped medicine, the problems of health posed by urban centres and how wider social concerns such as ordering of gender relations, communalism, and extraction of labour figured in medical discourses. The panel will analyse the emergence of a legal framework and medical infrastructure to deal with the mental and physical health of colonial populations. The panel welcomes papers that move beyond the centrality of nation-states by focusing both on regional case studies and trans-national connections. Papers will cover the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries, allowing greater consideration of post-colonial developments and the transnational movements of medical professionals and medical knowledge in both colonial and post-colonial eras. The panel will facilitate an interdisciplinary conversation by bringing together historians, social anthropologists and those working on health policy.

Accepted papers:

Author:

Samiksha Sehrawat (Newcastle University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper traces the development of public medical care in colonial and post-colonial India within a transnational context. It compares debates about the involvement of the state in medical provision in India with various colonies and Europe to assess the colonial legacy for medical care.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the colonial legacy for medical care provision in South Asia by situating the development of state-financed medical care in colonial and post-colonial India within a transnational context. It examines debates about the involvement of the state in medical provision in various colonies and Europe to ask why medical care became an important part of welfare in developed countries but remained part of an unfulfilled 'development' agenda in Asian and African post-colonial states. It compares the histories of provision in settler colonies like New Zealand and Australia with the trajectories of medical care in both British and French colonies in Africa and Asia, drawing on an expanding literature that includes work on the political economy of health, colonial medicine, medical anthropology and medical history. Analysing the extent to which the goal of health for all began to dominate policy from the 1940s across different countries brings fresh perspectives on the post-colonial Indian state's health care provision.

Author:

Margret Frenz (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the story of transimperial and transnational circulations of South Asian doctors between South Asia, East Africa, North America, and Europe.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the story of transimperial and transnational circulations of South Asian doctors between South Asia, East Africa, North America, and Europe. This paper focuses on the relationships between mobile South Asian doctors, their professional work, and their wider networks. It investigates their multi-stage and multi-directional migrations across the colonial and post-colonial divide. The contributions of these doctors to 'building the Empire' and post-colonial global networks from a southern and often ambivalent - 'subaltern' - perspective will be analysed. They could draw on their transferable skills, as well as their membership - even if marginalized - to a global medical fraternity to adjust to the profound changes in the period of decolonization in South Asia and East Africa between 1947 and 1963. In this prolonged process their migratory and circulatory trajectories changed, often relating to both new opportunities as well as new obstacles, such as non-recognition of their qualifications. Thus, their 'connected histories' and 'intersecting local contexts' highlight the ambiguities of global subaltern elites in the twentieth century.

Author:

Biswamoy Pati (NEHRU MEMORIAL MUSEUM & LIBRARY)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the world of the tribals and outcastes in colonial Orissa highlighting the negotiations (in the margins) with smallpox,leprosy, ‘madness’ and midwifery.

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses on the world of the tribals and outcastes in colonial Orissa highlighting the diversities and interactions in a context that spelt doom for the marginal people. Alongside, it examines the manner in which the marginal people responded to colonial modernity which, as 'received wisdom' informs us, seems to be an area monopolised by the upper caste, Hindu bhadralok of the urban world of the Bengal Presidency. It examines specific features, highlighting the intricacies generated by the shifts and changes affecting the region, and a host of interactions that lie submerged in invisibilised discourses. This paper explores the negotiations (in the margins) with smallpox, leprosy, 'madness' and midwifery. One would imagine that such areas would exist in earlier phases of European history, and also in the wider colonial areas, which could provide valuable insights to situate history in holistic and comparative terms over longer periods of time.

Author:

Sudip Saha (North-Eastern Hill University)

Paper short abstract:

The present paper makes an attempt to explore the incentives for malaria research in the tea plantations of colonial Assam Valley by analysing the factor of ‘locality’ i.e. the influence of local ecology and the role of tropical aggregation of labour.

Paper long abstract:

The concept of epidemiology has gained wide acceptance in the historical understanding of colonial development today. To locate the source of epidemics since the discovery of Ronald Ross's mosquito vector as malaria parasite, the focus of attention is turned to major sites of colonial economy throughout the world. The factor of 'locality', therefore, emerged as an important field of enquiry in an attempt to identify the specific vector in malaria. Considering the transition in the understanding of tropical diseases, this paper makes an attempt to explore the incentives for malaria research in the tea plantations of Assam Valley. Several tea estates were set up in the Valley became the places of intense malaria research in the early twentieth century as the infectivity of malaria was mostly prevalent among the immigrant labourers of the gardens. Contributions came both from the government and private entrepreneurships in malaria research which was intended to reduce mortality rates of the labourers. Yet, the region itself did not witness any sustained implementation of anti-malarial policies in terms of research and economic activity and malaria continued to kill the labouring population of the Valley gardens. By analysing the factor of 'locality' in malaria research, the present paper would make an attempt to indentify the influence of local ecology i.e. mosquito vector on malarial fever on the one hand and the role of 'tropical aggregation of labour' in the causation of malaria in the tea plantations of Assam Valley on the other.

Author:

Burton Cleetus (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Paper short abstract:

Explores how knowledge forms and belief systems negotiates with the idea of therapeutic reform initiated by the State and social elites. It engages with encounters and adaptations of local healing traditions against the regimentation process of the modernising enterprise.

Paper long abstract:

The primary concern of those engaged with the process of therapeutic modernisation within the indigenous medical traditions in India were to figure out a 'rational' medical domain from the large number of localised healing techniques and practices. Kerala, a state in the south western part of the Indian sub-continent, offers unique experience of modernisation of its medical traditions, wherein a new realm for Ayurvedic medicine was attempted by formulating an institutionalised structure brought about by a collaboration between social elites within the indigenous medical domain and the State. Attempts to subject localised practitioners, and their practices, within new sets of standards were often met with resistance. The manner in which such healing forms, marginalised in the grand narrative of institutionalisation, survived in difference to the regulatory mechanisms of the state and the reformulation processes of the society is the focus of this paper. Such enquires help us to locate the layers of domination, resistance and adaptation that was integral to the character of medical encounters in India. This is therefore an attempt to engage with the manner in which localised healing traditions, and their practitioners, were subjected to the changes initiated by state and societies functioning within the logic of colonial modernity.

Author:

Cressida Jervis Read (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

Dengue fever has regularly hit the headlines in India over the last few years with increasingly large, severe annual outbreaks. This paper explores the emergence of dengue fever in Delhi and residents' negotiation of mosquitoes, health, home and the urban environment.

Paper long abstract:

Despite being listed as one of the World Health Organisation's seventeen 'neglected tropical diseases', dengue fever has regularly hit the headlines in India over the last few years with increasingly large, severe annual outbreaks, particularly during the monsoon and post-monsoon season. Several of India's major cities and large urban centres have become endemic for all four of the dengue virus serotypes of the mosquito-transmitted disease, while the daytime biting, home dwelling mosquito vector presents dilemmas for public health vector control. This paper explores the emergence of dengue fever in Delhi and residents' negotiation of mosquitoes, health, home and the urban environment.

Author:

Roger Jeffery (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will discuss how India's health system has changed from c1980 to c2010. It will argue that despite considerable changes the fundamental problem posed by the failures of India's public health services remain acute. Current proposals for resolving the situation will be critically assessed.

Paper long abstract:

In the late 1970s I developed three arguments: about how India's health system was caught up in a process of medical dependency; that the medical 'profession' in India had never been fully established, and indeed was experiencing 'deprofessionalization'; and that there was relative autonomy between India's health systems and its class structure. From the vantage point of the 2010s, these concepts have only partly stood the test of time. In order to refine these concepts, this paper will use three case studies of changes in this 30-year period: (1) provisions for rural health, the significance of the National Rural Health Mission, and renewed efforts to provide 'doctors for the villages'; (2) the growth of corporate hospitals and of clinical trials, which have in part reversed the flows of patients and knowledge between India and the Global North; and (3) changes in the global position of India's pharmaceuticals industry. It will be argued that the move of India - from the Third World to a BRICS member - is insufficient for it to have dealt with the basic contradictions that have prevented India from dealing with its fundamental public health problems. Neo-liberal models have created a new form of dependency.