The administration of colonial medicine was a critical aspect of the Imperial project in Asia and Africa. Colonial medicine produced bodies of knowledge that differentiated self and other while justifying colonial rule and many everyday practices. The production of scientific knowledge about the colonies, the tropics and racialized bodies was central to the process of mainstream medicine and biology and its ideology persists in contemporary post-colonial or decolonized social systems and contemporary scientific practices. I am applying for the PGIF planning grant to develop a Medical Humanities course and Network through the Global Center in Mumbai. The course will explore the persistence of colonial medical ideas in contemporary scientific practices and technology (regenerative medicine and aging, surrogacy and transplant medicine) and in the South Asian literary imagination of these practices and ideas.
Medical Humanities is a growing field that extends the traditional biomedical framework to study how health is determined and defined by social, economic, political and aesthetic facts as well as biological ones. This framework will bring the habits of mind and critical reasoning that characterize the humanities to the study of colonial medicine allowing it to be properly historicized and understood as both value-laden and politically motivated. The development of this course and the establishing of a network of local medical humanities experts in India will help us understand contemporary health inequities and uneven distribution of medical practice and technologies in terms of the colonial encounter. At the core of both this new course and the network is a commitment to language learning, a multilateral sense of methodology, and a broad theoretical engagement across the disciplines, especially those oriented toward social theory, historical research, political philosophy, ethics, or media and technology issues.