GWS News

2017 Marianne A. Ferber Recipient

4/28/2017  8:00 am

Medical Modernity: Rethinking U.S. Colonial Practices in the Philippines and the Health Work of Non-elite Women (1870-1948)

From the professionalization of midwifery in 1870 to the professionalization of nursing in 1948, my dissertation examines four health programs that framed the medical training of Filipino women as a critical pathway to modernization and the creation of an independent nation state. Over the course of seven decades, Filipino health personnel built a feminized care infrastructure. This system was designed to address the health needs of the general populace, as well as to inform everyday people of enlightened principles about the body and the ordering of the world. Looking at a diverse set of actors, such as Filipino physicians, nurses, midwives, and native folk healers as well as U.S. colonial officials and medical missionaries, this project aims to tell the intellectual history of modern medicine in the Philippines through the perspective of Filipinos, rather than from the perspective of the colonizer. Therefore, the subjects I write about undermine the commonly held notion that modern medicine in the Philippines was a result of U.S. empire; instead, I argue that Filipino women staked a claim in medical modernity and used it to express their own agency. Furthermore, this project argues that while Filipino women’s work was critical in colonial and national medical modernization programs, being considered medically modern remained illusory for non-elite Filipino women. This was because U.S. imperial and Filipino national frameworks defined medical modernity based on an exclusionary logic that positioned non-elite women as inherently outside the realm of what it meant to be modern.