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Bitter Pills: Colonialism, Medicine and Nationalism in Burma, 1870-1940

From: Journal of Burma Studies
Volume 14, 2010
pp. 21-58 | 10.1353/jbs.2010.0005



This article examines medicine as a field of knowledge deeply implicated in the emergence of new ways of articulating national difference. Specifically, it aims to shed light on the symbiosis between perceptions of political space and sovereignty, and conceptualizations of human anatomy. The article offers an analysis of the presentation, dissemination, and institutionalization of western medicine by colonial researchers, missionaries, educators and policy-makers in Burma, and correlates these generally ethnocentric perceptions with European presumptions about indigenous medicine. Reflecting upon the place of medicine as a strategic handmaiden to both military expeditions and missionary ambitions, it considers proposals for medical education and medical rights in Burma by Burmese advocates of educational and labour reform and the specific place of medicine in the training of Karen nationalist leader Dr. San C. Po and Burmese nationalist U Thein Maung.

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