Medicine on the Periphery: Public Health in Yucatán, Mexico, 1870–1960

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9781498517348: Medicine on the Periphery: Public Health in Yucatán, Mexico, 1870–1960

Medicine on the Periphery examines the history of the public health of Yucatán, Mexico, from the 1870s through 1960. This book includes chapters on institutions, healers, changing patterns of disease, the biomedicalization of Yucatán, and the relationship between Yucatán and the Mexican Revolutionary government. Sowell analyzes Yucatec officials’ establishment of public health programs as a strategy for the modernization of the region, using wealth from the production of henequen to create Mexico’s most extensive public health system and subsequent tensions with the Revolutionary government. Public health programs situated the Yucatán into a complex position in the nexus of knowledge, power, and technologies of the Atlantic medical community. Medicine on the Periphery provides a comprehensive look at how Yucatán became a medical periphery, a status that made it increasingly dependent upon knowledge and technologies produced in the productive core of the North Atlantic and subject to the authority of the Mexican state. This book will be of interest to scholars in Mexican studies, history of medicine and public health in Latin America and in the Atlantic world.

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About the Author:

David Sowell is professor of history at Juniata College and teaches courses on Latin America, international studies, and the history of medicine.

Review:

The author has an impressive command of sources in diverse archives and libraries located in Mexico and the United States. . . . Sowell’s book is a sound contribution to the history of medicine in Latin America. It is a remarkable example of how skillful historical research can produce a subnational case study that is comprehensive, coherent, profound, and relevant. Medicine on the Periphery: Public Health in Yucatan, Mexico, 1870–1960 will be of great interest to medical anthropologists, historians of Latin American medicine, and historians interested in medicine in the Atlantic. (Bulletin of the History of Medicine)

Weaving together political, institutional, social, cultural, and individual accounts, Medicine on the Periphery offers new understandings of public health transformation in Yucatán during the heyday of henequen production and through Mexico’s revolutionary era. Sowell skillfully demonstrates how the confluence of medicalization and modernity in the rivalrous state-building projects of Mexico’s federal and Yucatán’s regional governments—amidst shifting local economic, racial, and healer relations and the engagement of urban Yucatec elites with multiple international interlocutors—engendered both complementarity and contestation in the shaping of contemporary medicine. (Anne-Emanuelle Birn, University of Toronto, author of Marriage of Convenience: Rockefeller International Health and Revolutionary Mexico)

Sowell provides an excellent, engaging, accessible study of the history of medicine and healing in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. His work emphasizes the considerable accomplishments of the region's medical elite, their connections to other communities within and beyond Mexico, and the tangled process by which the public health programs they created were subordinated to those of Mexico's federal government. Overall, a valuable contribution to the growing scholarship on the history of medicine and public health in Latin America. (Adam Warren, University of Washington)

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