Precarious PrescriptionsContested Histories of Race and Health in North America

Precarious PrescriptionsContested Histories of Race and Health in North America

Laurie B. Green, John Mckiernan-González, and Martin Summers

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780816690466

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press


This collection of essays explores the complex interplay between disease as biological phenomenon, illness as a subjective experience, race as an ideological construct, and racism as a material practice. Ranging across time and space—from the interactions between white settlers and Native Americans in mid-nineteenth-century Puget Sound to physicians’ activism around hunger in the South and the Southwest in the 1960s—the contributions here collectively tell a complicated history of the relationship between medical knowledge, ideas of racial difference, health practices and power. Rather than reducing the heterogeneous histories of people of color and Western biomedicine to standard stories of medical racism or simple binaries of power and resistance, the essays highlight the contradictions and historical contingencies that mark the ways in which medical knowledge and public health policy work to racialize certain groups, on the one hand, and the ways in which racialized groups make demands on the health care profession or claims on the state to attend to their health needs, on the other. This collection of essays brings together for the first time in a single volume studies by scholars trained in the medical humanities and in the history of race and ethnicity, both fields which have grown considerably in the last two decades. Considered together, the essays provoke new ways of thinking about health and disease, race and citizenship in America.