Experimental Encounters: Filipino and Hawaiian Bodies in the U.S. Imperial Invention of Odontoclasia, 1928–1946
Abstract

Abstract:

Through extensive dietary and dental surveys among infants and children living in Hawai'I starting in the late 1920s, medical researchers transformed immigrant and indigenous children's mouths into objects of pathological comparison, establishing sites of alternative empirical and epistemological contact that are endemic to U.S. Pacific empire. These studies resulted in the extension of odontoclasia, a veterinary diagnosis, from dogs to humans. As a dietary antidote, researchers recommended the wider consumption of poi, a starchy Hawaiian staple. Although this appears to be a novel endorsement of indigenous foodways predating contemporary activist efforts to reinstate traditional food cultures to support indigenous health, narrow technocratic specificity and the biomedical emphasis on the cultural rather than structural etiology of odontoclasia marginalized Hawaiian health by reducing morbidity to failures to conform to U.S. imperial modernity, which included industrial medical surveillance on plantations. Conversely, doctors credited plantations for saving Filipinos through successful imperial and hygienic assimilation.