Colonial Pathologies

American Tropical Medicine, Race, and Hygiene in the Philippines

Colonial Pathologies

Book Pages: 368 Illustrations: 46 b&w photos, 2 maps Published: August 2006

American Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies, Science and Technology Studies

Colonial Pathologies is a groundbreaking history of the role of science and medicine in the American colonization of the Philippines from 1898 through the 1930s. Warwick Anderson describes how American colonizers sought to maintain their own health and stamina in a foreign environment while exerting control over and “civilizing” a population of seven million people spread out over seven thousand islands. In the process, he traces a significant transformation in the thinking of colonial doctors and scientists about what was most threatening to the health of white colonists. During the late nineteenth century, they understood the tropical environment as the greatest danger, and they sought to help their fellow colonizers to acclimate. Later, as their attention shifted to the role of microbial pathogens, colonial scientists came to view the Filipino people as a contaminated race, and they launched public health initiatives to reform Filipinos’ personal hygiene practices and social conduct.

A vivid sense of a colonial culture characterized by an anxious and assertive white masculinity emerges from Anderson’s description of American efforts to treat and discipline allegedly errant Filipinos. His narrative encompasses a colonial obsession with native excrement, a leper colony intended to transform those considered most unclean and least socialized, and the hookworm and malaria programs implemented by the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1920s and 1930s. Throughout, Anderson is attentive to the circulation of intertwined ideas about race, science, and medicine. He points to colonial public health in the Philippines as a key influence on the subsequent development of military medicine and industrial hygiene, U.S. urban health services, and racialized development regimes in other parts of the world.


Colonial Pathologies is a welcome addition to the literature on both the social history of medicine and the history of American colonialism.” — Daniel Becker, Itinerario

Colonial Pathologies is a highly original work that, through the anxious eyes of its American architects, successfully illuminates the multidimensional U. S. colonial-medical state in the early twentieth-century Philippines. It has much to teach scholars about U. S. empire building, colonial medicine, race, and gender.” — Paul Kramer, Bulletin of the History of Medicine

Colonial Pathologies is a path-breaking study of an aspect of late colonialism that is all too frequently neglected: imperial medicine. Anderson demonstrates how hygiene and sanitation became the hallmarks of a distinctly Americanised ‘civilising process’ that attempted to impose foreign rule over an archipelago of subjects and protect those entrusted with its mission from the baneful effects of having to do so in a tropical setting.” — Greg Bankoff, Anthropological Forum

Colonial Pathologies paints a vivid picture of empire- and nation-building by the United States during the Progressive Era, and it illuminates the part played by medicine in America's internal and external drives to expand and to assimilate annexed indigenous populations. . . . Anderson's use of wide-ranging source material is laudable and exciting. . . . [E]ssential and enjoyable reading for scholars of medicine and empire, certainly, but also for historians of the Progressive Era, of race, and of global and public health.” — Roberta Bivins, Technology and Culture

“[A] persuasive, often amusing, account of an important encounter that highlights the critical connections between the practice of colonialism and the practice of medicine. Medicine was routinely depicted as the beneficent representative of modernity and prosperity in the colonies, but as Anderson constantly reminds us, that confidence was always unsettled by death, disease, resistance, and difference.” — Philippa Levine, Journal of American History

“[An] important, absorbing, and enormously stimulating book.” — Smita Lahiri, Journal of Asian Studies

“Anderson . . . advances in significant, often provocative ways our understanding of the multifaceted, remarkably influential, global impact of the turn-of-the-century rise of germ theory. Among the most compelling sections of the study are those in which he deploys case evidence from the Philippines to explore the growing, but often contested, influence of radically new ways of understanding the etiology of disease on health research and pathogen immunization or eradication campaigns pursued both in the colonies and Western (and Japanese) metropoles. Here he makes some of his most original contributions in his treatment of the turn-of-the-century discourse.” — Michael Adas, American Historical Review

“Anderson breaks fresh ground in the histories of tropical medicine, international health and the Philippines. This book puts American colonial hygiene on the map and sets an impressive standard for future scholars.” — Alexandra Minna Stern, Pacific Affairs

“Anderson has done an extraordinarily thorough job of research, and he skillfully employs the rich material he found regarding several key players. . . . Colonial Pathologies helps us understand just how complex and changing the reciprocal interactions between various imperial projects—in this case, the American project in the Philippines—and Western medical thinking really were.” — James C. Mohr, Pacific Historical Review

“Anderson has successfully shown the dynamics of Filipino and American relations in the context of medicine and public health . . . Anderson’s highly original work is therefore a timely addition to the continuing challenge of understanding Philippine history in contemporary times.” — Ma. Mercedes G. Planta, Journal of Colonialism & Colonial History

“Anderson’s Colonial Pathologies is a must read for anyone interested in medical history and medical anthropology. . . . [A]nderson’s work provides valuable insights into studying medical history in colonial Philippines and the subsequent influence of colonial medicine on the development of public health services in the US and abroad.” — A.Y. Lee, Choice

“Anderson’s account of the US colonization of the Philippines is an important case study for those interested in the history of imperialism, and shows, yet again, that public health has been an important tool of empire.” — Linda Bryder, International History Review

“Anderson’s conclusion is intriguing and far-reaching…. [T]he most effective part of Anderson’s argument rests with its ability to clarify the effects that medicalized notions of the Filipino body had on both the colonized and the colonizer.” — Clio on the Brain blog

“Anderson's achievement . . . One of the finest and most finely nuanced accounts yet of colonial medicine in Asia (or, indeed, its sister continents), Colonial Pathologies provides an accessible narrative which students of European and American public health would read with profit.” — David Arnold, Social History of Medicine

“As a case study in the transition from colonial ‘civilizing mission’ to post-war ideas of development, Colonial Pathologies has much to offer. As the author points out in his introduction, few books on ‘colonial medicine’ have covered this relatively neglected period or have made this theme their central focus.” — Mark Harrison, Bulletin of the Pacific Circle

“Overall, Anderson delivers an impressive account of the evolving nature of early 20th-century American colonial medical and public health thought as its authors observed, interpreted, and interacted with an unfamiliar people and place. As such, this book will be of great interest to any historian interested in the social construction of health and illness, as well as to those interested in tropical an/or colonial American medicine. Though intended for an academic audience, it is clearly written and quite suitable for a more general audience, especially those with an interest in military, colonial, or medical history.” — Keith C. Mages, Nursing History Review

“This is an important study of the role of medicine in American colonial policy.” — Raul Pertierra, The Australian Journal of Anthropology

“Warwick Anderson’s Colonial Pathologies . . . interweaves the perspectives of race and gender in the relationship between tropical medicine and US imperial policy. . . . [T]his is a fantastic book which is richly nuanced, meticulously researched and wittily written.” — Raquel A. G. Reyes, Medical History

“Warwick Anderson’s fascinating new book is the outcome of meticulous research into the relationship between colonization and medical practices in America’s administration of the Philippines, 1898–1930s. . . . The volume is heavily illustrated with a variety of fascinating photographs. . . . [T]his fascinating and ambitious book is of broad appeal, and will intrigue and challenge readers interested in the history of the Philippines and American colonial expansion, as well as the history of medicine, ‘race’, masculinity, confinement, and discipline.” — Claire Anderson, IIAS Newsletter

“Warwick Anderson’s scholarship is well known for its intellectual rigor and its stimulating originality. . . . Without ignoring the particularities of the colonial history of the Philippines or of ‘American way’ of public health, Anderson offers above all, in my view, a fine reflection on the culture of biomedicalization, the questions of power and the negotiations that are part of the process, and the unexpected results that emerge, both locally and globally.” — Laurence Monnais, American Ethnologist

Colonial Pathologies does the work that many colonial histories profess to do but rarely carry out: it provides us with a meticulous, dynamic, and grounded analysis of how political rationalities were honed and colonial and colonized subjectivities were formed through the changing medical perceptions and practices of U.S. imperial policy. Not least, it demonstrates how Philippines colonial public health regimes provided the template for subsequent healthcare in the Philippines, in the United States, and in international health services more broadly.” — Ann Laura Stoler, editor of Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History

“An imaginative and well-informed study of what might be called the bodily dimension of imperial relationships in the Philippines. Warwick Anderson explores the subjective and multidimensional aspects of the formally humane and objective realm of tropical public health, illuminating the American colonial experience and foreshadowing ambiguities and paradoxes in what we have come to call global health.” — Charles E. Rosenberg, author of No Other Gods: On Science and American Social Thought

“It’s difficult to overstate the significance of this book. Its account of hygiene as the means for establishing ‘biomedical citizenship’ in the Philippines under U.S. rule is carefully crafted and powerfully argued. Sympathetically deconstructing the assertiveness and delusions of white colonial medical practitioners beset by the specters of native bodily excess, Warwick Anderson shows how race and biology defined civic identities in the colony and the metropole alike. A path-breaking work on imperial medicine, it is certain to attract a wide readership.” — Vicente L. Rafael, author of The Promise of the Foreign: Nationalism and the Technics of Translation in the Spanish Philippines


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Warwick Anderson teaches at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he is Chair of the Department of Medical History and Bioethics; Robert Turell Professor of Medical History and Population Health; and Professor of the History of Science, Science and Technology Studies, and Southeast Asian Studies. He is the author of The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health, and Racial Destiny in Australia, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1. American Military Faces West 13

2. The Military Basis of Colonial Public Health 45

3. “Only Man is Vile” 74

4. Excremental Colonialism 104

5. The White Man’s Psychic Burden 130

6. Disease and Citizenship 158

7. Late-Colonial Public Heath and Filipino “Mimicry” 180

8. Malaria Between Race and Ecology 207

Conclusion 227

Abbreviations 235

Notes 237

Bibliography 299

Index 343
Sales/Territorial Rights: World exc Philippines

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3843-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3804-8
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