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The Medical Spur to Postcolonial Science in Southeast Asia: Indonesia and the Philippines during the Early Decades of the Cold WarJune 13, 2019
For the first time in 1943—at the height of the Japanese occupation of the Indonesian archipelago—Soekarno expressed the relationship between medicine and nation-building. He had foreseen, in the not-too-distant future when the country would proclaim its independence from colonial rule, that physicians would have a unique niche in Indonesian society —as advocates of the largely illiterate Indonesian masses. He envisioned that a physician would not only treat the sick, but also educate the public about preventative health measures such that Indonesia would become a strong and healthy nation. Eleven years later, President Ramon Magsaysay of the Philippines asserted in his first State of the Nation Address that no nation could go ahead if crippled by disease. These two vignettes attest to the centrality of public health in nation-building in postcolonial Indonesia and the Philippines.
The University of the Philippines Institute of Hygiene and the Rise of a Filipino Sanitarian Regime: Some Provisional NotesJune 14, 2018
The University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Hygiene contributed greatly to the country's biopolitical landscape in the 1950s. At the helm of the public health system was a corps of Filipino sanitarians who advocated state-directed health programs as important recipes for the country's postcolonial development and modernization. Affiliated with the Institute of Hygiene in one way or another, this new class of public health officials combined ideas of health citizenship with their own nationalist moorings, but was nonetheless highly receptive to new health technologies coming out of the U.S.'s participation in the Second World War. In 1950, a Rockefeller Foundation (RF) commissioned study assessed the post-WWII Philippines as having a "more favorable standing" compared to Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan, and the People's Republic of China, because of the large number of Filipino doctors in active practice, a large percentage of which was employed by the government. Filipino sanitarians, therefore, was a phenomenon by itself that calls for a serious historical examination. My research report is an initial effort at writing a history of Filipino sanitarianism. I do this by looking into the UP Institute of Hygiene's early pre-WWII history, as well as the Rockefeller Foundation's role in its establishment and institutional life. Using data sources gathered from a research trip at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in March 2018, I offer some provisional views on the Institute's influence to this corps of Filipino sanitarians, as well as the Institute's location in the history of colonial and postcolonial biopower in the Philippines.
My work at the Rockefeller Archive Center evolved into a study of the making of an international community of public health experts and researchers across imperial Asia and the Pacific. My initial interest lay with the history professional associations, particularly the Far Eastern Association of Tropical Medicine (FEATM) and the Pacific Science Association (PSA). The FEATM was established in Manila in 1908, largely through American initiative, whilst the Pacific Science Association developed out of a similar dynamic in Hawaii in 1920. In addition to fostering the exchange of ideas, research, and practices, these associations also proclaimed the goal of cultivating international understanding, fellowship, and ultimately peace through cooperation. Many of the personnel of the International Health Board (IHB) of the Rockefeller Foundation were either founders or enthusiastic participants in these associations, whilst the IHB supported many of the institutions, projects, and students across Asia and the Pacific that presented their work at their international congresses. I thus hoped to use officers diaries, correspondence, and reports held at the Rockefeller Archive Center to trace the movements and connections between health officials and scientists in Asia and the Pacific. The official publications of the FEATM and PSA promoted the goodwill of international conferences, so it was important to consult more private and confidential sources to discover what tensions and hostilities coexisted with cooperation and exchange.
The Rockefeller Foundation (RF) began its work on the American-colonized Philippine Islands in 1913. Engaging mainly in health and sanitation work, it built a strong partnership with the American insular government there and continued its charitable work long after Philippine independence in 1946. During this, my second trip to the RAC, I continued my research from 2010. Looking specifically at the years between 1923 and 1932, I explored the RF's role in a profound shift in discourses of health and national development. In that decade, RF programming helped transform Filipina women into stewards of Filipino health by replacing male sanitary health inspectors with public health nurses. In so doing, they made Filipina women central to debates about Filipino nationhood.
Civilian control of the Philippines emerged early in the era of American administration, diminishing the authority of the military and facilitating Filipino participation in the regime. Throughout this period American public servants relied on Filipino collaboration, cooperation, and eventually permission to accomplish their tasks. Many Americans found this dynamic frustrating. They were supposed to be the experts in charge of creating a modern state on these Pacific islands. Administrators, civil servants, educators, and public health officials embraced a progressive agenda that relied upon efficiency, technology, and expertise to develop the Philippines. From the beginning of the Insular Government, structural limits constrained Americans' ability to implement reforms. Filipino demands for independence shaped policy in Washington and confined colonial development within boundaries established by the colonized elite.
The Rockefeller Foundation (RF) began its work on the American-colonized Philippine Islands in 1913. Engaging mainly in health and sanitation work, it built a strong partnership with the American insular government there and continued its charitable work long after Philippine independence in 1946. The author's research at the Rockefeller Archive Center focused on the RF's activities between 1913 and 1935. I looked specifically at its relationship with an increasingly Filipinized government to understand the role non-state actors played in this American colony. In that period the Foundation undertook two major projects previously unstudied by historians: a hospital ship and an overhaul of the public health education system.
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