Prescribing Race? Rethinking the History of Medicine

AHA Session 198
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Virginia Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
Richard M. Mizelle, University of Houston
The Audience

Session Abstract

Since the late 1990s, race has become an important category of analysis in the history of medicine and science, however, often confined to special issues and groups. This panel explores how the inclusion of race in an intersectional historical analysis provides new perspectives on and new insights into familiar topics in the history of medicine. It argues that the development and mobilization of racial categories have shaped and reshaped the theory and practice of medicine, often in subtle and surprising ways and with unintended consequences. Focusing on nineteenth and twentieth century American medicine, the panel explores race as “a useful category of historical analysis” to enrich and complicate histories of disease, medicalization, patient activism, and eugenics. Sandra Eder, in her analysis of the medicalization of intersex in mid-twentieth century America, ask how notions of race shaped the treatment of intersex patients and the conceptualization of the sex/gender binary that emerged from these practices. Ayah Nuriddin explores how African-American physicians mobilized black eugenics to challenge assumptions about the inferiority of black bodies and to promote racial uplift. Mical Raz shows how policy makers, physicians, and activists helped expand definitions of child abuse and solidify gender and racial perceptions of risk in the 1970s, thus creating a colorblind “class-free” approach that focused on individual, parental psychopathology rather than addressing structural inequalities. Ijeoma Kola focuses on debates on asthma and hay fever susceptibility at the turn of the twentieth century, juxtaposing how scholars navigated inconsistencies between observed biological differences between races, assertions of asthma as a disease of the elite, and the presence of asthma and hay fever in black patients.
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