The Medical Spur to Postcolonial Science in Southeast Asia: Indonesia and the Philippines during the Early Decades of the Cold War

by Vivek Neelakantan

Jun 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.

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