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Ming-Cheng M. Lo. Doctors within Borders: Profession, Ethnicity, and Modernity in Colonial Taiwan. Colonialisms. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002. xvii + 236 pp. Ill. $49.95, £35.00 (cloth, 0-520-22946-0); $19.95, £13.95 (paperbound, 0-520-23485-5).
In this concisely written and well-organized volume, Ming-Cheng M. Lo sets out to excavate the historical genesis and changing identities of Taiwanese medical professionals under Japanese colonial rule. Using archival materials as well as interviews and published oral histories, Lo crafts a finely tuned narrative history of Taiwanese doctors throughout the entire colonial period from 1895 through 1945. The author also contributes new theoretical insights into the historical sociology of the professions.
After laying out the primary arguments and theoretical framework in the first chapter and establishing the early history of the Taiwanese medical profession in the second, Lo traces the changing roles and identities of these "ethnic professionals" through three subperiods in the following three chapters. Between 1920 and 1931, during a period of relatively liberal colonial policies, doctors in Taiwan identified themselves as "national physicians" actively engaged in building up not only a professional identity but also an ethnic one as a result of their participation in and leadership of an anticolonial struggle. This activism was diluted in the 1930s, particularly after the Manchurian Incident of 1931 initiated a new era of militarization in Japan and greater repression within Japan's colonies. As the political role of physicians diminished, they were increasingly distanced from the Taiwanese ethnic community and more closely integrated into the imperial medical system. This trend toward assimilation into the Japanese medical empire further intensified during the war years from 1937 to 1945 when doctors in Taiwan largely dismissed the particularities of their ethnic identity, embracing instead a doctrine of medical modernity that they assumed was rooted in universal humanism and rationality. While seemingly "Japanized," these "medical modernists" nonetheless used their professional identity to subvert and alter colonial ideologies for purposes different from those intended by the architects of the Japanese empire.
The book makes significant contributions to two distinctive but overlapping [End Page 249] subfields: the historical sociology of the professions on the one hand, and the history of colonial medicine on the other. Lo, who quite rightly critiques the literature on professionalization for its Anglo-American or European bias, attempts instead to understand this process within a colonial context, underscoring the centrality of race and ethnicity in the social formation of the medical profession in the Third World. Of more interest, perhaps, to readers of the Bulletin, the book provides an important and unique case study of colonial medicine carried out by an Asian nation colonizing other Asians. Lo stresses the peculiar history of Japanese colonialism, particularly the ways in which imperial power relations were articulated through an ideology that alleged cultural and racial affinities between colonized and colonizer. The assimilationist doctrine of the Japanese led them to cultivate native agents who would bridge the colonial system and local communities. One of the most fascinating outcomes of this particular approach analyzed by Lo was the incorporation into the Japanese medical empire of "medical missionaries" from Taiwan who helped spread Japanese "civilization" through medical services on the Chinese mainland and throughout Southeast Asia. Indeed, the focused discussion of Japanese medical activities in China between 1902 and 1945 found in the sixth chapter is an intriguing analysis of Japan's particular approach to colonial medicine beyond the borders of Taiwan.
The dual focus of the book—as both a study of a particular historical case in the sociology of the professions and a distinctive history of Japanese colonial medicine—is generally well integrated and seamless, although occasionally sociological theory disrupts the flow of the historical narrative. Chapters and sections are clearly laid out, however, and arguments and conclusions are frequently reiterated. Those more interested in one or the other aspect of this fine historical and sociological study...