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Precarious Prescriptions

Precarious Prescriptions: Contested Histories of Race and Health in North America

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 320
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    Precarious Prescriptions
    Book Description:

    InPrecarious Prescriptions, Laurie B. Green, John Mckiernan-González, and Martin Summers bring together essays that place race, citizenship, and gender at the center of questions about health and disease. Exploring the interplay between disease as a biological phenomenon, illness as a subjective experience, and race as an ideological construct, this volume weaves together a complicated history to show the role that health and medicine have played throughout the past in defining the ideal citizen.

    By creating an intricate portrait of the close associations of race, medicine, and public health,Precarious Prescriptionshelps us better understand the long and fraught history of health care in America.

    Contributors: Jason E. Glenn, U of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; Mark Allan Goldberg, U of Houston; Jean J. Kim; Gretchen Long, Williams College; Verónica Martínez-Matsuda, Cornell U; Lena McQuade-Salzfass, Sonoma State U; Natalia Molina, U of California, San Diego; Susan M. Reverby, Wellesley College; Jennifer Seltz, Western Washington U.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4162-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: Making Race, Making Health
    (pp. vii-xxviii)

    IN 2009, the publication ofThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacksturned the attention of the American general reading public to a painful topic: the use and abuse of black bodies for scientific experimentation and medical education. Public reaction to science journalist Rebecca Skloot’s account of the unauthorized acquisition of cancerous tissue from Henrietta Lacks, a working-class African American woman in Baltimore, and the subsequent revolution in cell culturing, placed the book on the bestseller list for an extraordinary number of weeks. This tale telescoped the complex relationship between ideas of racial difference and the hypervisibility and legal invisibility of...

  4. 1 Curing the Nation with Cacti: Native Healing and State Building before the Texas Revolution
    (pp. 1-22)

    JUST TWELVE YEARS after Mexico declared independence from Spain, a cholera epidemic that had struck Europe, Asia, and North America made its way to Mexico. Cholera ravaged much of the nation, stretching from Chiapas in the south to Tamaulipas and Texas in the north. When it first appeared in New Orleans in late 1832, municipalities in Texas began to prepare for an imminent attack. The disease struck southern Mexico in the spring of 1833, and the federal and state governments sent preventive measures to city councils in the north to combat the disease. When the epidemic reappeared in Tamaulipas, state...

  5. 2 Complicating Colonial Narratives: Medical Encounters around the Salish Sea, 1853–1878
    (pp. 23-42)

    SMALLPOX HAUNTED TRAVELERS around the Salish Sea in 1853. That summer a small group of people journeyed by canoe from Nisqually, on the southern end of the Sound, to Victoria, across the Straits of Juan de Fuca. This group probably included several men from Hawai‘i, eastern Canada, and villages around the connected bays and waterways that Europeans called Puget Sound, as well as one Scot and, more unusually, one American. Most of these men were employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company, still a regional power despite British relinquishment of claims to the territory south of the forty-ninth parallel five years...

  6. 3 “I Studied and Practiced Medicine without Molestation” African American Doctors in the First Years of Freedom
    (pp. 43-66)

    IN THE EARLIEST YEARS OF FREEDOM, African Americans with hopes of becoming professional doctors faced a complex dilemma, perhaps more complex than most historians have recognized. Although many freedmen had practiced healing as slaves, by and large they had no formal medical education and no means of gaining one. In this respect, aspiring black doctors faced obstacles similar to those faced by African Americans trying to advance in education, land ownership, employment, and politics. In these areas, and in others, the end of slavery was followed by de facto and de jure racism that barred access to the professions and...

  7. 4 At the Nation’s Edge: African American Migrants and Smallpox in the Late-Nineteenth-Century Mexican–American Borderlands
    (pp. 67-90)

    ON JULY 23, 1895, secretary of state Edwin Uhl received a telegram from Torreon, Coahuila, stating that “one-hundred and fifty three negroes from [Tlahualilo] colony are here destitute. Surrounded by Mexican police to prevent them from entering town. Wire what to do. All are American citizens.”¹ Secretary Uhl told the consul in Torreon to wait. Two days later, Uhl read a report that the group of “negroes [were] starving and almost in open rebellion to all authority. . . . I anticipate serious trouble.”² Apparently, John McCaughan, a regionally prominent landowner, mine manager, and U.S. consul, had told the group...

  8. 5 Diagnosing the Ailments of Black Citizenship: African American Physicians and the Politics of Mental Illness, 1895–1940
    (pp. 91-114)

    MENTAL HEALTH EXPERTS in the United States have long recognized that, as a group, African Americans underuse mental health services. This lack of use has resulted in an underrepresentation of African Americans in outpatient services and their overrepresentation in inpatient services, especially public hospitals. This is largely because the failure to seek and receive outpatient care often means that one’s condition is more severe by the time there is any medical intervention. Mental health professionals point to both structural and cultural factors to explain this lack of voluntary engagement with the mental health care system. These include a lack of...

  9. 6 “An Indispensable Service”: Midwives and Medical Officials after New Mexico Statehood
    (pp. 115-142)

    “ABOUT 800 MIDWIVES deliver babies in New Mexico,” reported state director of maternal and child health Hester Curtis in the late 1930s.¹ She continued her assessment of the primarily Spanish-speaking Nuevomexicana midwives of New Mexico, explaining that their “chief qualifications seem to be extreme age, poor eyesight and a large stock of superstitions with which to meet emergencies.”² In conclusion, Curtis lamented that because of the rural nature of the state, “time-honored folkways,” and the lack of readily available medical facilities, it was “unrealistic to suppose” that the public health department could “eliminate” New Mexico’s midwives. Hester Curtis echoed the...

  10. 7 Professionalizing “Local Girls”: Nursing and U.S. Colonial Rule in Hawai‘i, 1920–1948
    (pp. 143-166)

    MULTIPLE AND WIDELY CIRCULATING representations of “local girls,” or indigenous Hawaiian, Asian, and mixed-race women working in Hawai‘i as nurses in the first half of the twentieth century, bear haunting resonances with the racialization of black nurses working domestically on the U.S. continent and with nonwhite nurses working across a wide range of contemporary British and U.S. colonial possessions. In 1924,The Queen’s Hospital Bulletindescribed the emergence of local girls in Honolulu through “a nurses’ training school” engaged in “developing Island girls with character to give cheerfully a much needed service to the community.”¹ In 1949 Brigid Maxwell, in...

  11. 8 Borders, Laborers, and Racialized Medicalization: Mexican Immigration and U.S. Public Health Practices in the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 167-184)

    THROUGHOUT THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, U.S. public health and immigration policies intersected with and informed one another in the country’s response to Mexican immigration. Three historical episodes illustrate how perceived racial differences influenced disease diagnosis: a 1916 typhus outbreak, the midcentury Bracero Program, and medical deportations that are taking place today. Disease, or just the threat of it, marked Mexicans as foreign, just as much as phenotype, native language, accent, or clothing. A focus on race rendered other factors and structures, such as poor working conditions or structural inequalities in health care, invisible. This attitude had long-term effects on immigration policy...

  12. 9 “A Transformation for Migrants”: Mexican Farmworkers and Federal Health Reform during the New Deal Era
    (pp. 185-210)

    IN 1946, theTexas Spectator, a periodical known for muckraking journalism, reprinted a story from theWashington Posttitled “Camps Aid to Valley Workers: Projects at Robstown Are Transformation for Migrants.” The account, written by Agnes E. Meyer, described the tragic case of a pregnant migrant woman whose experiences, Meyer claimed, “[exemplified] the contrast in health conditions as well as in the whole tenor of life between the camp and the Mexican quarter of Robstown,” a town located just west of Corpus Christi. The story reported as follows:

    She could have had her baby delivered without charge through the camp...

  13. 10 “Hunger in America” and the Power of Television: Poor People, Physicians, and the Mass Media in the War against Poverty
    (pp. 211-236)

    IN THE MOST RIVETING SCENE of the 1968 CBS documentary “Hunger in America,” prominent white pediatrician Raymond Wheeler asks black fourteen-year-old Charles, who is seated beside his younger brother and sister in their grim, dimly lit home in Hale County, Alabama, what he has for lunch at school. “Nothing,” responds Charles shyly, as the camera zooms in. He has told Wheeler that he has peas for breakfast, but only sometimes. His school provides subsidized lunches, but Charles says he doesn’t have the twenty-five cents to pay. “Well, what do you do while the other children are eating?” queries Wheeler. “Just...

  14. 11 Making Crack Babies: Race Discourse and the Biologization of Behavior
    (pp. 237-260)

    ALTHOUGH RECENT MEDICAL RESEARCH has discredited the concept of the crack baby,¹ as a narrative of urban behavioral degeneracy it played a pivotal role in the creation of a post–civil rights reconception of race. The revelation that there was no sound empirical evidence supporting the classification of developmentally challenged newborns as “crack babies” is now more than ten years old. However devoid of empirical evidence, it was nevertheless a story of such powerful cultural resonance that it heavily contributed to the demonization of the poor urban underclasses: Americans who experience systemic poverty and joblessness and whose existence has never...

  15. 12 Suffering and Resistance, Voice and Agency: Thoughts on History and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study
    (pp. 261-274)

    VOICE AND AGENCY became the central analytic foci for my generation as we fought to create a new social history and to make concerns of race, gender, class, and sexuality crucial to the historical enterprise. Two quick anecdotes of my own travels through graduate school illustrate this. When I was first in graduate school in the late 1960s, I took a European intellectual history course at New York University with renowned scholar Frank Manuel. In the middle of some lecture on an obscure French revolutionary thinker, I raised my hand and asked, “Professor Manuel, who believed these ideas and did...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 275-276)
  17. Index
    (pp. 277-296)