History of International/​Global Health

Course Number
5700 (Global Health)
Course Instructor(s)
Anne-​Emanuelle Birn

Course Description

This graduate seminar explores the ideologies, institutions, and practices of the field of international/global health from its imperial origins to the present. Themes covered include: the role of health in empire-building, commercial expansion, migration, and labor productivity; perennial fears around epidemics/pandemics and their economic and social consequences; class, racial, and gendered dimensions of health research and approaches; the contest over defining, healing, and “saving” of the diseased mind, body, and soul of Indigenous, racialized, and non-metropolitan subjects; and the moral politics of sex, maternity, and fertility.

Through examination of historical sources (documents and films) and scholarly research, we seek to understand the political, scientific, social, and economic underpinnings of the principles and cooperative activities of the international/global health field, its embedded cultural values, and its continuities and discontinuities (e.g. between international and global health).  The course provides a critical historical perspective on many of the contemporary concerns of global health, such as: the tensions around (bio)security and borders; humanitarianism, foreign policy, and development “assistance”; the role of international agencies and actors in shaping/responding to local versus global priorities and politics; and the struggle over global health’s techno-biological versus integrative-social justice paradigms of success.