Peripheral Nerve

Health and Medicine in Cold War Latin America

Peripheral Nerve

American Encounters/Global Interactions

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Book Pages: 376 Illustrations: Published: August 2020

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

Buenos Aires psychoanalysts resisting imperialism. Brazilian parasitologists embracing communism as an antidote to rural misery. Nicaraguan revolutionaries welcoming Cuban health cooperation. Chilean public health reformers gauging domestic approaches against their Soviet and Western counterparts. As explored in Peripheral Nerve, these and accompanying accounts problematize existing understandings of how the Cold War unfolded in Latin America generally and in the health and medical realms more specifically. Bringing together scholars from across the Americas, this volume chronicles the experiences of Latin American physicians, nurses, medical scientists, and reformers who interacted with dominant U.S. and European players and sought alternative channels of health and medical solidarity with the Soviet Union and via South-South cooperation. Throughout, Peripheral Nerve highlights how Latin American health professionals accepted, rejected, and adapted foreign involvement; manipulated the rivalry between the United States and the USSR; and forged local variants that they projected internationally. In so doing, this collection reveals the multivalent nature of Latin American health politics, offering a significant contribution to Cold War history.

Contributors. Cheasty Anderson, Anne-Emanuelle Birn, Katherine E. Bliss, Gilberto Hochman, Jennifer L. Lambe, Nicole Pacino, Carlos Henrique Assunção Paiva, Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney, Raúl Necochea López, Marco A. Ramos, Gabriela Soto Laveaga


Peripheral Nerve is a robust and innovative inquiry into the course of the Cold War on the ground through developments in the health and medical professions in Latin America. The essays advance our knowledge and understanding of a fascinating range of case studies, combining well-researched personal stories and local histories articulated within national and international contexts. Every essay is thoroughly researched and excellently written.” — Daniela Spenser, coeditor of In from the Cold: Latin America’s New Encounter with the Cold War

“An impressive collection of novel studies that demonstrates that the Cold War was global and left an enduring legacy. This book problematizes narratives of the U.S. command of Latin American public health and medicine by incorporating not only the role played by the Soviet Union but also the contribution of transnational intermediaries who pitted the superpowers against each other in processes of professional validation, state-building, and South-South solidarity ties.” — Marcos Cueto, coauthor of Medicine and Public Health in Latin America: A History

Peripheral Nerve advances our understanding of the region's Cold War in many consequential respects. Above all, it challenges the conventional historical narrative that, in health and medicine, as elsewhere, Latin America's Cold War history was circumscribed and constrained by the hegemonic dominance of the United States in its imperial ‘backyard.’ . . . . The book's examination of Latin America's relations with the Second World before, during, and after the Cold War redresses a serious imbalance in the burgeoning literature, while extending the new scholarship’s appreciation of the regional struggle's ‘multivalent, multilevel nature.’” — Gil Joseph, from the foreword


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Anne-Emanuelle Birn is Professor of Critical Development Studies and Global Health at the University of Toronto.

Raúl Necochea López is Associate Professor in the Department of Social Medicine at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / Gilbert M. Joseph  ix
Acknowledgments  xix
Introduction. Alternative Destinies and Solidarities for Health and Medicine in Latin American before and during the Cold War / Anne-Emanuelle Birn  1
Part I. Leftist Affinities and U.S. Suspicions
1. Under Surveillance: Public Health, the FBI, and Exile in Cold War Mexico / Katherine E. Bliss  31
2. National Politics and Scientific Pursuits: Medical Education and the Strategic Value of Science in Postrevolutionary Bolivia / Nicole L. Pacino  55
3. Cold War Mexico in a Time of "Wonder Drugs" / Gabriela Soto Laveaga  86
Part II. Health Experts/Expertise and Contested Ideologies
4. The Puerto Rico Family Life Study and the Cold War Politics of Fertility Studies / Raúl Necochea López  109
5. Parasitology and Communism: Public Health and Politics in Samuel Barnsley Pessoa's Brazil / Gilberto Hochman and Carlos Henrique Assunção Paiva 132
6. Revolutionizing Cuban Psychiatry: The Freud Wars, 1955–1970 / Jennifer Lynn Lambe  158
Part III. Health Politics and Publics, with and without the Cold War
7. From Cold War Pressures to State Policy to People's Health: Social Medicine and Socialized Medical Care in Chile / Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney  187
8. "Psychotherapy of the Oppressed": Anti-Imperialism and Psychoanalysis in Cold War Buenos Aires / Marco Ramos  211
9. South-South Cooperation as a Cold War Tonic: Cuban Medical Diplomacy to Sandinista Nicaragua, 1979–1990 / Cheasty Anderson  241
Epilogue. A Lingering Cold (War)? Reflections for the Present and an Agenda for Further Research / Anne-Emanuelle Birn and Raúl Necochea López  267
Contributors  295
Bibliography  299
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0956-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0868-2