Thesis ID: CBB632148734

Medical Frontiers: Health, Empire, and Society in the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula, 1862-1959 (2019)


Modern institutions of medicine and sanitation, global pandemics, and new conceptions of health and the body converged in the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Such transformations corresponded with increased British imperial interventions and nascent state formation in this region. Tracing the development of public health programs after steamship service connected Bombay and Karachi with Gulf ports in 1862 to the acceleration of the oil industry after World War Two, this dissertation describes how mobile, multi-ethnic, and multi-confessional residents of regions that would become Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman accepted, modified, or rebelled against top-down medical and public health initiatives. In the first four chapters, I explore an array of projects, including quarantines, hospitals, clinics, and malaria eradication, to demonstrate how the Gulf and its Arabian hinterland served as an object of development, a space of scientific translation, and a buffer zone between “diseased” Asia and white Europe. By bringing into focus the modern epidemiological concerns that shaped the spatial and communal articulation of Gulf populations, I demonstrate that biomedical knowledge and institutions transformed the relationship between political elites and non-elite residents. I survey early public health projects to narrate how imperial and local actors sought to define those populations by territory, race, religion, and gender decades before the national development period of the mid-twentieth century. The final chapter examines local accounts of al-ṭibb al-shaʿbī, or folk medicine, from the 1990s to the 2000s that address the period before the discovery of oil in the early-twentieth century. These texts craft an alternative narrative of the history of medicine in the Gulf that is made possible by the hegemony of biomedicine under the development state and a resurgent interest in “traditional” forms of healing. Such narratives frame certain health practices as indigenous to the region and the ethnically Arab population. In this conceptualization, al-ṭibb al-shaʿbī is an immutable cultural artifact as well as a foil to biomedicine as an alienating and overly institutionalized experience.

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Authors & Contributors
Harrison, Mark
Sheard, S.
Lane, Joan
Holland, Michael
Burrell, Sean
Gill, Geoffrey
Social History of Medicine
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Twentieth-Century British History
Air Power History
Imago Mundi: A Review of Early Cartography
Journal of Global History
Oxford University Press
Medical Museum Publishing
I. B. Tauris
Cornell University Press
Austrian Academy of Sciences Press
Medicine and society
Public health
Müller, David Heinrich
Great Britain
Saudi Arabia
Arabian peninsula
Ottoman Empire
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
18th century
21st century
17th century
National Health Service (Great Britain)
United States Air Force

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