The Social Fabrics of Medicinal and Bodily Knowledge in Early Latin America

AHA Session 238
Conference on Latin American History 57
Saturday, January 8, 2022: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Napoleon Ballroom C2 (Sheraton New Orleans, 3rd Floor)
Paula S. De Vos, San Diego State University
Adam W. V. Warren, University of Washington, Seattle

Session Abstract

From a somewhat marginal position in the 1970s, history of medicine has emerged as one of the burgeoning sub-fields in the history of the Spanish Atlantic world. Thus far, scholarship has focused predominantly on the modern era, highlighting processes of medicalization of society, professionalization of medicine, and imperialism and public health campaigns. In contrast, this panel centers on the early modern era and proposes that by centering on the intimately local—families, ethnic communities, breast-milk—we gain new understandings of the production of medical knowledge and its circulation. Ultimately, by foregrounding the role of gender, race, ethnicity, and religion in medical practice, this panel questions long held binaries between private/public, local/global, scientific knowledge/experiential knowledge.

Following a growing scholarship on knowledge circulation in the early modern Atlantic world, one that crucially has brought to the fore multiple forms of medicinal knowledge and different kinds of practitioners, and questioned Eurocentric and top-down approaches, this panel highlights kinship ties that fostered and facilitated the production and circulation of medical and bodily knowledge in early Latin American history. By mobilizing recent insights of legal, social, and religious history, this panel discusses, on the one hand, the medical practice of lesser-known practitioners as well as the social networks through which knowledge was created, spread and implemented in particular communities. In this panel, neighbors, families, townspeople, and medical practitioners are all important contributors and actors in histories of medical-knowledge production and circulation.

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