University of Wisconsin–Madison

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 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.