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Precarious Prescriptions

Contested Histories of Race and Health in North America

Laurie B. Green

Publication Year: 2014

In Precarious Prescriptions, Laurie B. Green, John Mckiernan-González, and Martin Summers bring together essays that place race, citizenship, and gender at the center of questions about health and disease. Exploring the interplay between disease as a biological phenomenon, illness as a subjective experience, and race as an ideological construct, this volume weaves together a complicated history to show the role that health and medicine have played throughout the past in defining the ideal citizen.

By creating an intricate portrait of the close associations of race, medicine, and public health, Precarious Prescriptions helps us better understand the long and fraught history of health care in America.

Contributors: Jason E. Glenn, U of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; Mark Allan Goldberg, U of Houston; Jean J. Kim; Gretchen Long, Williams College; Verónica Martínez-Matsuda, Cornell U; Lena McQuade-Salzfass, Sonoma State U; Natalia Molina, U of California, San Diego; Susan M. Reverby, Wellesley College; Jennifer Seltz, Western Washington U.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: Making Race, Making Health

Laurie B. Green, John McKiernan-González, and Martin Summers

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pp. vii-xxviii

In 2009, the publication of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks turned the attention of the American general reading public to a painful topic: the use and abuse of black bodies for scientific experimentation and medical education. Public reaction to science journalist Rebecca Skloot’s account of the unauthorized acquisition of cancerous tissue from Henrietta Lacks, a working-class African American woman in...

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1. Curing the Nation with Cacti: Native Healing and State Building before the Texas Revolution

Mark Allan Goldberg

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pp. 1-22

Just twelve years after Mexico declared independence from Spain, a cholera epidemic that had struck Europe, Asia, and North America made its way to Mexico. Cholera ravaged much of the nation, stretching from Chiapas in the south to Tamaulipas and Texas in the north. When it first appeared in New Orleans in late 1832, municipalities in Texas began to prepare for an imminent attack. The disease struck southern...

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2. Complicating Colonial Narratives: Medical Encounters around the Salish Sea, 1853–1878

Jennifer Seltz

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pp. 23-42

Smallpox haunted travelers around the Salish Sea in 1853. That summer a small group of people journeyed by canoe from Nisqually, on the southern end of the Sound, to Victoria, across the Straits of Juan de Fuca. This group probably included several men from Hawai‘i, eastern Canada, and villages around the connected bays and waterways that Europeans called Puget Sound, as well as one Scot and, more unusually...

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3. “I Studied and Practiced Medicine without Molestation”: African American Doctors in the First Years of Freedom

Gretchen Long

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pp. 43-66

in the earliest years of freedom, African Americans with hopes of becoming professional doctors faced a complex dilemma, perhaps more complex than most historians have recognized. Although many freedmen had practiced healing as slaves, by and large they had no formal medical education and no means of gaining one. In this respect, aspiring black doctors faced obstacles similar to those faced by African...

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4. At the Nation’s Edge: African American Migrants and Smallpox in the Late-Nineteenth-Century Mexican– American Borderlands

John McKiernan-González

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pp. 67-90

On July 23, 1895, secretary of state Edwin Uhl received a telegram from Torreon, Coahuila, stating that “one-hundred and fifty three negroes from [Tlahualilo] colony are here destitute. Surrounded by Mexican police to prevent them from entering town. Wire what to do. All are American citizens.”1 Secretary Uhl told the consul in Torreon to wait. Two days later, Uhl read a report that the group of “negroes [were]...

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5. Diagnosing the Ailments of Black Citizenship: African American Physicians and the Politics of Mental Illness, 1895–1940

Martin Summers

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pp. 91-114

Mental health experts in the United States have long recognized that, as a group, African Americans underuse mental health services. This lack of use has resulted in an underrepresentation of African Americans in outpatient services and their overrepresentation in inpatient services, especially public hospitals. This is largely because the failure to seek and receive outpatient care often means that one’s...

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6. “An Indispensable Service”: Midwives and Medical Officials after New Mexico Statehood

Lena McQuade-Salzfass

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pp. 115-142

“About 800 midwives deliver babies in New Mexico,” reported state director of maternal and child health Hester Curtis in the late 1930s.1 She continued her assessment of the primarily Spanish-speaking Nuevomexicana midwives of New Mexico, explaining that their “chief qualifications seem to be extreme age, poor eyesight and a large stock ...

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7. Professionalizing “Local Girls”: Nursing and U.S. Colonial Rule in Hawai‘i, 1920–1948

Jean J. Kim

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pp. 143-166

Multiple and widely circulating representations of “local girls,” or indigenous Hawaiian, Asian, and mixed-race women working in Hawai‘i as nurses in the first half of the twentieth century, bear haunting resonances with the racialization of black nurses working domestically on the U.S. continent and with nonwhite nurses working across a wide range of contemporary British and U.S. colonial possessions. In 1924...

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8. Borders, Laborers, and Racialized Medicalization: Mexican Immigration and U.S. Public Health Practices in the Twentieth Century

Natalia Molina

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pp. 167-184

Throughout the twentieth century, U.S. public health and immigration policies intersected with and informed one another in the country’s response to Mexican immigration. Three historical episodes illustrate how perceived racial differences influenced disease diagnosis: a 1916 typhus outbreak, the midcentury Bracero Program, and medical deportations that are taking place today. Disease, or just the threat of...

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9. “A Transformation for Migrants”: Mexican Farmworkers and Federal Health Reform during the New Deal Era

Verónica Martínez-Matsuda

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pp. 185-210

In 1946, the Texas Spectator, a periodical known for muckraking journalism, reprinted a story from the Washington Post titled “Camps Aid to Valley Workers: Projects at Robstown Are Transformation for Migrants.” The account, written by Agnes E. Meyer, described the tragic case of a pregnant migrant woman whose experiences, Meyer claimed,...

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10. “Hunger in America” and the Power of Television: Poor People, Physicians, and the Mass Media in the War against Poverty

Laurie B. Green

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pp. 211-236

In the most riveting scene of the 1968 CBS documentary “Hunger in America,” prominent white pediatrician Raymond Wheeler asks black fourteen-year-old Charles, who is seated beside his younger brother and sister in their grim, dimly lit home in Hale County, Alabama, what he has for lunch at school. “Nothing,” responds Charles shyly, as the camera...

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11. Making Crack Babies: Race Discourse and the Biologization of Behavior

Jason E. Glenn

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pp. 237-260

Although recent medical research has discredited the concept of the crack baby,1 as a narrative of urban behavioral degeneracy it played a pivotal role in the creation of a post–civil rights reconception of race. The revelation that there was no sound empirical evidence supporting the classification of developmentally challenged newborns...

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12. Suffering and Resistance, Voice and Agency: Thoughts on History and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Susan M. Reverby

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pp. 261-274

voice and agency became the central analytic foci for my generation as we fought to create a new social history and to make concerns of race, gender, class, and sexuality crucial to the historical enterprise. Two quick anecdotes of my own travels through graduate school illustrate this. When I was first in graduate school in the late 1960s, I took a European intellectual history course at New York University...


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pp. 275-276


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pp. 277-296

E-ISBN-13: 9781452941622
E-ISBN-10: 1452941629
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816690473

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2014