Medical Practitioners and the Colonial Project: Medicine, Public Hygiene, and the Contested Re-Colonization of Sao Tome and Principe, 1850-1926
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My dissertation analyzes the role that medicine played in the re-colonization of So Tom and Prncipe from the mid-nineteenth century until 1926. Focusing in particular on the role that Portuguese medical practitioners assumed as agents of colonization, the dissertation will explore how many of the public health projects that these doctors proposed and attempted to implement met with limited success in the colony, in part because of the negative reception they faced on the part of the local inhabitants of So Tom and Prncipe (both African and non-African), but mainly due to the weakness of the colonial medical service itself. It was this weakness, coupled with the agency that individuals possessed, that allowed for the persistence of folk or popular medical practices, particularly on the plantations and in the more remote parts of the colony. The lack of reach of the colonial medical service also opened up spaces for all sorts of individuals to pursue medical work. This was not a reflection of Portuguese colonial benevolence. Instead, the lack of resources at the disposal of the colonial medical service meant that medical practitioners in the colony could seize the opportunity to further their own careers within the service or outside of it. Consequently, the dissertation will problematize ideas concerning the supposed tolerance and openness of the Portuguese colonial medical service regarding local practices and practitioners. Furthermore, it will show that there were also individuals, in particular local medical assistants, nurses and midwives who willingly cooperated with the service and sought to become part of it. The dissertation will, therefore, shed light on the complicated question of responses on the part of the Santomean population vis--vis the interventions and practices of the colonial medical service.