Article ID: CBB180555353

Medicine and Health “in the Least Civilized Regions”: Indigenous Healers, Scientific Doctors, and International Interlopers in Twentieth-Century Guatemala and Ecuador (2022)


Carey, David, Jr. (Author)

American Historical Review
Volume: 127
Issue: 4
Pages: 1715-1751
Publication date: 2022
Language: English

In nations with large Indigenous populations like Guatemala and Ecuador, overlapping narratives of nationalism, public health, and race signal the complexity of modernizing health care. Various variables—race, gender, class, geography, the role of the state, divisions within the ruling class—impinged on people’s health care decisions. To analyze how racial thought and public health influenced each other during Guatemala’s predominantly dictatorial rule and Ecuador’s authoritarian but more participatory government at a time when the most significant international public health organization—the Rockefeller Foundation (RF)—sought to improve public health in both countries, I combine transnational and comparative historical analyses of the first half of the twentieth century. Triangulating Guatemalan, Ecuadorian, and RF archives and focusing on the primacy of Indigenous voices reveals an interactive matrix of different types of racism in Guatemala, Ecuador, and RF that shaped indígenas’ (Indigenous people’s) engagement with, exclusion from, or rejection of public health initiatives and scientific medicine. The politics of indigeneity was as consequential for public health as scientific developments. Many state agents and RF representatives used public health contexts to mobilize social constructions of race and ethnicity that advanced their agendas and marginalized indígenas. In turn, indígenas often determined the extent to which authorities’ aspirations matched their accomplishments.

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Authors & Contributors
Few, Martha
Anderson, Warwick H.
Armijos, Maria Teresa
Burnett, Kristin
Carstairs, Catherine
de Smet, Peter A. G. M.
British Journal for the History of Science
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin Canadienne d'Histoire de la Medecine
Canadian Historical Review
Dynamis: Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiarumque Historiam Illustrandam
Health and History
University of Pennsylvania
Purdue University (Lafayette, Indiana)
Cambridge University Press
Duke University Press
KIT Publishers
Lehigh University Press
Health care
Public health
Medicine, traditional
Indigenous peoples; indigeneity
Kang, Cheng
Shi, Meiyu
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
18th century
20th century
11th century
21st century
Latin America
Rockefeller Foundation
League of Nations

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