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A Legacy of Mistrust: Colonial Medicine in the Global Present

Communities in India, Pakistan, and Nigeria rejecting vaccinations for their children; assaults on medical teams fighting Ebola in West Africa; attacks on aid workers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria: what is the source of such animosity? This lecture, by Professor Richard C. Keller, seeks the origins of contemporary mistrust of global health campaigns in the history of colonialism. Medicine was a critical ally in the expansion of western empires in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a fact not forgotten by postcolonial populations. While much of the world eagerly seeks access to biomedicine, it is important to recognize the ways in which medicine and public health have often been tools of diplomacy rather than altruism.

Richard C. Keller is Professor of Medical History and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is also Associate Dean in the International Division. He is the author of Fatal Isolation: The Devastating Paris Heat Wave of 2003 (University of Chicago Press, 2015) and  Colonial Madness: Psychiatry in French North Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2007) and editor of Unconscious Dominions: Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignties (Duke University Press, 2011).


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