Disease in the History of Modern Latin America

From Malaria to AIDS

Disease in the History of Modern Latin America

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 29 illus. Published: March 2003

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies, Medicine and Health > Medical Humanities

Challenging traditional approaches to medical history, Disease in the History of Modern Latin America advances understandings of disease as a social and cultural construction in Latin America. This innovative collection provides a vivid look at the latest research in the cultural history of medicine through insightful essays about how disease—whether it be cholera or aids, leprosy or mental illness—was experienced and managed in different Latin American countries and regions, at different times from the late nineteenth century to the present.

Based on the idea that the meanings of sickness—and health—are contestable and subject to controversy, Disease in the History of Modern Latin America displays the richness of an interdisciplinary approach to social and cultural history. Examining diseases in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, the contributors explore the production of scientific knowledge, literary metaphors for illness, domestic public health efforts, and initiatives shaped by the agendas of international agencies. They also analyze the connections between ideas of sexuality, disease, nation, and modernity; the instrumental role of certain illnesses in state-building processes; welfare efforts sponsored by the state and led by the medical professions; and the boundaries between individual and state responsibilities regarding sickness and health. Diego Armus’s introduction contextualizes the essays within the history of medicine, the history of public health, and the sociocultural history of disease.

Diego Armus, Anne-Emanuelle Birn, Kathleen Elaine Bliss, Ann S. Blum, Marilia Coutinho, Marcus Cueto, Patrick Larvie, Gabriela Nouzeilles, Diana Obregón, Nancy Lays Stepan, Ann Zulawski


"[A]ll of the authors do an admirable job of respecting the state of medical knowledge while also offering insightful critiques into the interactions between microbes, individuals, societies, and states that shape the epidemiology and pathology of disease. Their conclusions offer insight that may be of use and interest not only to students of history, but also to medical and public health practitioners." — Jonathan D. Ablard, New Mexico Historical Review

"[A]n exciting contribution to this interdisciplinary literature. . . . [T]he essays in the book are strong. . . . [T]he authors and editor are to be congratulated for assembling such an insightful and compelling series of essays." — Mary Katherine Crabb , The Latin Americanist

"[O]ffers a rich variety of approaches and perspectives on biological and psychological conditions, written by accomplished historians from Latin American and U.S. universities. . . . This collection will appeal to a broad audience, including readers studying diseases from well beyond the geographic limits of these essays. . . . [The] introduction is an excellent historiography." — Dan Malleck, History: Reviews of New Books

"[R]ecommended for all college and university undergraduate and graduate library collections supporting programs in Latin American studies, public health, and the history of medicine." — Robert B. Ridinger , E-Streams

"[T]he innovative characteristic and the quality of the essays together with the reunion of different approaches and of thematic and contextual diversity, make this book an excellent entrance to those with interests in the history of disease and history in Latin America." — Gilberto Hochman, Bulletin of Latin American Research

"[T]his valuable piece of scholarship is bound to engender new interest in the sub-field of historiography that examines health and disease in Latin America." — Michael R. Hall Armstrong , Journal of Third World Studies

"Slow to acquire momentum in the 1980s and early 1990s, the historiography of medicine and health care in Latin America is now going from strength to strength. This new collection, edited by Diego Armus . . . makes a significant contribution to the subject." — Christopher Abel, American Historical Review

"The richness of the stories results from the inclusion of the institutions, actors, and societal glimpses that allow the reader to understand more than the history of medicine or the evolving public health response. . . . An important aspect of this book is that it can open our eyes to the similarities that we have shared and continue to share with people of the world. By the formation of our institutions and the responses of our political, social and economic systems to public health problems, public health nurses and other health care workers, as well as governmental and philanthropic planners, will see that while the languages and cultures differ, the Latin American people's responses to health care are human and familiar to our own. This book of historical essays on diseases reinforces that point." — Jeannine Uribe , Nursing History Review

"This collection includes the most innovative and recent work on the history of medicine, disease, and the body in modern Latin America. Diego Armus has assembled an impressive anthology that moves chronologically, spatially, and thematically across a wide and variegated terrain. . . . It will certainly appeal both to historians of science and medicine and to multidisciplinary Latin Americanists." — Alexandra Minna Stern, The Americas

"To work toward medical justice is to unveil the complexity of the historical past that is often acted out in the present. The edited collection by Armus achieves this superbly. . . . [T]he book engages very fruitfully with particular histories of epidemics. . . ." — Valentina Napolitano Quayson , Latin American Research Review

“This book is an extraordinary contribution that brings together the very best scholars of Latin American public health and social history. Its emphasis on the social conditions that lead to epidemic disease as well as the political and social forces that shape practice is a welcome corrective to a literature still too often dominated by positivist traditions.” — David Rosner, director of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health, Columbia University

”I was fascinated by all the essays in Disease in the History of Modern Latin America. They are theoretically aware and sophisticated while they remain accessible and oriented to the complexity of historical experience. This collection is a powerful argument for the richness of an interdisciplinary approach to cultural history.” — Daniel James, author of Doña Maria's Story: Life History, Memory, and Political Identity


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Diego Armus is Assistant Professor of Latin American History at Swarthmore College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface vii

Disease in the Historiography of Modern Latin America / Diego Armus 1

“The Only Serious Terror in These Regions”: Malaria Control in the Brazilian Amazon / Nancy Leys Stepan 25

An Imaginary Plague in Turn-of-the-Century Buenos Aires: Hysteria, Discipline, and Languages of the Body / Gabriella Nouzeilles 51

Tropical Medicine in Brazil: The Case of Chagas’ Disease / Marilia Coutinho 76

Tango, Gender, and Tuberculosis in Buenos Aires, 1900–1940 / Diego Armus 101

The State, Physicians. and Leprosy in Modern Colombia / Diana Obregón 130

Revolution, the Scatological Way: The Rockefeller Foundation’s Hookworm Campaign in 1920s Mexico / Anne-Emanuelle Birn 158

Between Risk and Confession: State and Popular Perspectives of Syphilis Infection in Revolutionary Mexico / Katherine Elaine Bliss 183

Dying of Sadness: Hospitalism and Child Welfare in Mexico City, 1920-1940 / Ann S. Blum 209

Mental Illness and Democracy in Bolivia: The Manicomio Pacheco, 1935–1950 / Ann Zulawski 237

Stigma and Blame during an Epidemic: Cholera in Peru, 1991 / Marcus Cueto 268

Nation, Science, and Sex: AIDS and the New Brazilian Sexuality / Patrick Larvie 290

Contributors 315

Index 317

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3069-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3057-8
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