Decolonizing International Health: India and Southeast Asia, by S. Amrith

By S. Amrith

This publication bargains a heritage of overseas public overall healthiness spanning the colonial and post-colonial eras. the quantity specializes in India and the transnational networks connecting advancements in India with Southeast Asia, and the broader global and contributes to debates on nationalism, internationalism and technological know-how in an age of decolonization.

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The particular significance of the League’s increasing interest in problems of public health across Asia lay in its ability to bring together a range of unrelated sites; the comparative, classifying perspective of the League’s consultants allowed them to see, in all of their inspections, a broader set of forces at work. Haynes, for one, could barely contain his enthusiasm on the voyage home. S. ‘Maloja’, traversing the Red Sea, he wrote to the Private Secretary of the Viceroy of India, thanking him for receiving the commission, and summarizing his impressions of his visit: The countries we have visited are almost entirely agricultural … in each country, ‘rural reconstruction’ is prominent in the papers, and is on everyone’s lips.

What kinds of personnel would take the massive campaigns of international public health forward? Would they be doctors or ‘auxiliaries’, healers or technicians? At the same time, the WHO became the site for debates within public health itself. In particular, the story of international public health in the Asian arena highlights the constant tension between the perspective of ‘social medicine’ and what might be called the ‘magic bullet’ approach to public health. 62 The ‘magic bullet’ approach, on the other hand, focused upon the advances in technology made possible by germ theories of disease.

The League of Nations played a catalytic role, from the early 1930s, as a forum for debate, and as a body which could lend significant legitimacy to new ideas about health. The League’s Health Organization was itself in an unusually activist mood by the early 1930s. The early 1930s saw an increasingly close relationship between the League and the International Labour Organization (ILO). Pressure from workers’ delegations to the ILO, combined with the sympathetic attitude of its new director, Harold Butler, led the ILO to work closely with the League’s Health Organization on the issues of public health made visible by the economic shock of the Depression.

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