Instructor: Oswald Masebo Office: 214 Leighton Phone



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Disease, Health, and Healing in Modern African History

HIST 386-00

Fall 2009, Tuesday and Thursday 10.10 – 11.55am; Library 305


Instructor: Oswald Masebo

Office: 214 Leighton

Phone: x4207

Email: omasebo@carleton.edu

NOTE: Email is the most reliable means of communication. However, I usually read and respond to e-mails from 7.00 am to 7.00pm. If you send an e-mail after 7.00pm, expect a response the next morning.

Office Hours: Tuesday 12.00-02.00pm; Thursday 12.00-02.00pm OR by Appointment.
The Course

In this course, we will examine the history of disease, health, and healing in the context of changing economic, cultural, and political relations in Africa. Topics to be discussed include African medical ideas and practices, therapeutic pluralism, colonial medicine, social/public responses to disease, and controversies surrounding HIV/AIDS. We will pay attention to questions of power, agency, and gender as we discuss these topics. The course will highlight the key themes, historiographies, and methodologies in the history of disease, health, and healing in modern African history. At the end of the course, students will achieve the following:



  1. Appreciate that disease, health, and healing are social and historical processes

  2. Understand the historiographic, methodological, and substantive aspects of health, healing, and disease in African history

  3. Understand the interaction between conceptions and responses to disease, health, and healing

  4. Develop skills in critical reading of historical works.


Assignments. Course Evaluation will focus on four areas:
1. Attendance and Participation. Attendance and participation are mandatory. This is a discussion-structured course. Each course participant must be prepared to discuss the session’s required reading for each meeting. Attendance and participation constitute 20% of your grade.
2. Reflection Papers. You will write a total of three reflection papers during the semester. Each paper should be 3-4 pages long. The papers are an exercise in critical reading and thinking. Try to find out how the readings relate to or reinforce one another in illuminating issues of medicine. Be sure to state what these readings tell us concerning disease, health, and healing in African history. Each reflection paper constitutes 10% of your grade (a total of 30% for this component). The due dates for these papers are as follows:
First reflection paper is due October 1, 2009. This paper will discuss readings for week 1-3. (10%)

Second reflection paper is due October 22, 2009. This paper will discuss readings for week 4-6. (10%)

Third reflection paper is due November 12, 2009. This paper will discuss readings for week 7-9. (10%)
3. Mid-Term Examination. You will take the mid-term examination on Week 4, October 8, 2009 (from 10.10 to 11.10 am). This examination constitutes 20% of your grade.
4. Final Term Paper. You will write either a historiographic or a substantive formal essay on disease, health, and healing in African history. This essay should be 8-10 pages long and double-spaced. This assignment will give you an opportunity to explore some of the readings in depth and to generate your own arguments.
4.1 Historiographic question. How have successive generations of historians produced knowledge on health, illness, and healing in Africa, and how did their approaches to producing this knowledge change over time? Include the strengths, weaknesses, and silences for each approach
4.2 Substantive question. How should we understand the importance and historicity of disease in African pre-colonial and colonial history? What makes disease social and historical processes? Be sure to identify lenses through which historians have investigated issues related to disease. Note that this question requires you to explore disease in the context of historical processes and not the historiography associated with these issues.
You should submit a 1-2 page proposal (typed) for approval before you start writing your essay. The proposal should state the tentative thesis/proposition you plan to develop, together with the bibliography. These proposals are due not later than October 27, 2009. The final term paper constitutes 30% of your grade.
Special Needs: Students with disabilities that affect their ability to participate fully in class or to meet all requirements are encouraged to bring this to my attention so that appropriate accommodations can be arranged.

Week 01. Bringing Disease, Health, and Healing in African History
Tuesday, September 15: Introducing the Course and Self Introductions
No Reading


Thursday, September 17: The Social and Historical Dimension of Disease, Health, and Healing
Feierman, Steven, "Struggles for Control: The Social Roots of Health and Healing in Modern Africa," African Studies Review 28, 2/3 (1985): 73-147. JSTOR


Week 2: Thinking Historically About and Producing Knowledge on Disease, Health, and Healing
Tuesday, September 22: Why History Matters in Grappling with Disease and Health Challenges

Steven Feierman and John Janzen, eds., The Social Basis of Health and Healing in Africa (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1992), pp.1-19 Bookstore


Maureen Malowany, “Unfinished Agendas: Writing the History of Medicine of Sub-Saharan Africa,” African Affairs, 99 (2000): 325-349. JSTOR

Thursday, September 24: Historiography and Production of African Medical History
Gentle Reminder: First reflection paper for week 1-3 is due next Thursday, October 1.st
Required Reading

Rubert Boyce, “The Colonization of Africa,” Journal of the Royal African Society Vol.10 No. 40 (Jul., 1911), pp. 392-397. JSTOR.


Sir Malcom Watson, Malaria and Nutrition in Africa,” Journal of the Royal African Society Vol 36 No. 145 (Oct., 1937), pp.405-420. JSTOR
Megan Vaughan, “Healing and Curing: Issues in the Social History and Anthropology of Medicine in Africa,” Social History of Medicine, 7 (2) 1994: 283-295. E-RESERVE
Shula Marks, “What is Colonial about Colonial Medicine? And What has Happened to the Imperialism of Health?,” Social History of Medicine, 10 (2) 1997: 205-219. E-RESERVE
Recommended Reading

Osaak Olumwullah, Dis-Ease in the Colonial State: Medicine, Society, and Social Change Among the Abanyole of Western Kenya (Westport, Greenwood Press, 2002), pp. 1-34


Gwyn Prins, "But What Was the Disease? The Present State of Health and Healing in African Studies," Past and Present, 124 (1989): 159-179. JSTOR

Week 03: Pre-Colonial Medicine and Therapeutic Pluralism
Tuesday, September 29: Public Health, Cosmology, and African Religion
Required Readings

Gloria Waite, “Public Health in Pre-colonial East –Central Africa,” in Feierman and Janzen The Social Basis of Health and Healing in Africa, pp. 212 -231. Bookstore


Osaak Olumwullah, Dis-Ease in the Colonial State: Medicine, Society, and Social Change Among the Abanyole of Western Kenya (Westport, Greenwood Press, 2002), pp.67-102. E-RESERVE
Recommended Reading

John Janzen, “Ideologies and Institutions in Pre-Colonial Western Equatorial African Therapeutics,” in Feierman and Janzen (eds.), The Social Basis of Health and Healing in Africa, pp. 195-211.



Thursday, October 01: Therapeutic Pluralism
First reflection paper for week 1-3 due Today.
Gentle Reminder: You will take the mid term examination next Thursday, October 8, 2009.
Required Reading

John Janzen, The Quest for Therapy: Medical Pluralism in Lower Zaire (Berkeley and London, University of California Press, 1978), pp.3-11; 68-74. E-RESERVE


John Janzen, “Health, Religion, and Medicine in Central and Southern African Traditions,” in Lawrence E. Sullivan, ed. Healing and Restoring: Health and Medicine in World’s Religious Traditions (New York and London, Macmillan, 1989): 225-254. E-RESERVE
Stacey Langwick, “Devils, Parasites, and Fierce Needles: Healing and the Politics of Translation in Southern Tanzania,” in Science, Technology, and Human Values, Vol. 32 No.1 (2007): 88-117. ACADEMIC SEARCH PREMIER


Week 04: Disease in the Transition from Late Pre-Colonial to Early Colonial Period.
Gentle Reminder: Begin thinking about the Final Term Paper. Proposals are due not later than October 27.th
Tuesday, October 6: Colonial Conquest and Change in Disease Pattern.
Hedge Kjekshus, Ecology Control and Economic Development in East African History: The Case of Tanganyika 1850 – 1950 (London, James Currey, 1996), pp. 126-160. E-RESERVE.
Dennis Cordell, Joel Gregory, and Victor Piche, “Demographic Reproduction of Health and Disease: Colonial Central African Republic and Contemporary Burkina Fasso,” in Feierman and Janzen (eds.), The Social Basis of Health and Healing in Africa, pp. 39 – 70. Bookstore

Thursday, October 8: Disease, Knowledge, and Politics
Mid Term Examination, 10.10-11.10am
Karen E. Flint, Healing Traditions: African Medicine, Cultural Exchange, and Competition in South Africa, 1820 – 1948 (Athens, Ohio University Press, 2008), pp. 37- 89. Bookstore

Week 05: Colonial Medicine.
Tuesday, October 13: Colonialism, Medicine, and Disease

Required Reading

Spencer H. Brown, “A Tool of Empire: The British Medical Establishment in Lagos, 1861 – 1905,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 37, no.2 (2004): 309-343. JSTOR


Osaak Olumwullah, Dis-Ease in the Colonial State: Medicine, Society, and Social Change Among the Abanyole of Western Kenya (Westport, Greenwood Press, 2002), Chapter 5: The Colonial State, Health, and Healing in Bunyore,” pp. 159-202. E-RESERVE
Franz Fanon, “Medicine and Colonialism,” Chapter 4 in A Dying Colonialism, pp. 121-145. Translated from the French by Haakon Chevalier, with an Introduction by Adolfo Gilly. E-RESERVE
Recommended Readings

David Arnold, ed., Imperial Medicine and Indigenous Societies (Manchester and New York, Manchester University Press, 1988), Introduction


Roy MacLeod and M. Lewis, eds., Disease, Medicine and Empire (Manchester and New York, Manchester University Press, 1988), Preface and Introduction.

Thursday, October 15: Political Economy of Health and Illness
Gentle Reminder: Second reflection paper for week 4-6 is due next Thursday, October 22,nd 2009

Required Reading

D.E. Ferguson, “The Political Economy of Health and Medicine in Colonial Tanganyika” in M.H.Y. Kaniki ed. Tanzania Under Colonial Rule (London, Longman, 1980), pp. 307-347. E-RESERVE


Randall M. Packard, “Industrialization, Rural Poverty, and Tuberculosis in South Africa” in Steven Feierman and John Janzen, eds., The Social Basis of Health and Healing in Africa (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1992), pp. 104 – 131. Bookstore

Recommended Reading

Olumwullah, Dis-Ease in the Colonial State: Medicine, Society, and Social Change among the Abanyole of Western Kenya, pp.159-204.



Week 06: Missionary Medicine
Tuesday, October 20: Faith, Christianity, and Healing

Required Reading

Megan Vaughan, Curing their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness, Read Chapter 3 “The Great Dispensary in the Sky: Mission medicine,” pp. 55-76 (21 pages) AND Chapter 6, “Syphilis and Sexuality: The Limits of Colonial Medical Power,” pp. 129 – 154.


Thursday, October 22: Medical Evangelism Outside the Control of the State

Second reflection paper for week 4-6 is due today.

Proposals for the final term paper are due next Tuesday,
Required Reading

Terence Ranger, "Godly Medicine: The Ambiguities of Medical Missions in Southeastern Tanzania" in Steven Feierman and John Janzen, eds., The Social Basis of Health and Healing in Africa ( Berkeley, University of California Press, 1992):256 -282 Bookstore

Paul Landau, “Explaining Surgical Evangelism in Colonial Southern Africa: Teeth, Pain, and Faith,” Journal of African History, 37 (1996), pp. 261 – 281. JSTOR

Week 07: Epidemics and Social Reponses: The Case of Sleeping Sickness
Tuesday, October 27: Colonialism, Disease Control, and Knowledge Production
Proposals for the final paper are due today.
Required Reading

Marynez Lyon, “From ‘Death Camps’ to Cordon Sanitaire: The Development of Sleeping Sickness Policy in the Uele District of the Belgium Congo, 1903 – 1914,” The Journal of African History, Vol. 26, No. 1 (1985), pp. 69-91. JSTOR


Megan Vaughan, Curing their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness, Read Chapter 2 “ Rats’ Tails and Trypanosomes: Nature and Culture in Early Colonial Medicine,” pp. 29- 54.
Recommended Reading,

Helen Tilley, “Ecologies of Complexity: Tropical Environments, African Trypanosomiasis, and the Science of Disease Control in British Colonial Africa, 1900 – 1940,” Osiris, 2nd Series, Vol. 19, Landscapes of Exposure: Knowledge and Illness in Modern Environments (2004), pp. 21-38. JSTOR



Thursday, October 29: Making Sense of Disease and Public Health Interventions.

Required Reading

Kirk Arden Hoppe, “Lords of Fly: Colonial Visions and Revisions of African Sleeping Sickness Environments in Uganda Lake Victoria, 1906-1961,” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 67, No. 1 (1997), pp. 86-105. JSTOR


Luise White, ““They Could Make their Victims Dull:” Gender and Genres, Fantasies and Cures in Colonial Southern Uganda,” The American Review, Vol.100, No.5 (December 1995): 1379-1402. JSTOR



Recommended Reading

Luise White, “Vampire Priests of Central Africa: African Debates about Labor and Religion in Colonial Northern Zambia” Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Oct., 1993), pp.746-772. JSTOR



Week 08: Gendering maternity and child health
Tuesday, November 03: Women’s Power

Jean Marie Allman and Victoria Tashjian, I will not eat stone: A Women’s History of Colonial Asante (Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann, 2000), Chapter 5: “Making Proper Mothers and Dutiful Wives: Chiefs, Missions, and Order out of Chaos,” pp.169 -220. E-RESERVE


Samuel Thomas, “Transforming the Gospel of Domesticity: Luhya Girls and the Friends Africa Mission, 1917-1926,” African Studies Review, Vol. 43, No. 2 (September 2000), pp. 1-27. JSTOR


Thursday, November 05: Negotiating Reproductive Health and Child Rearing
Gentle Reminder: Third reflection paper for week 7-9 is due next Thursday, November 12, 2009.
Required Reading

Nancy Rose Hunt, ““Le Bebe en Brousse:” European Women, African Birth Spacing and Colonial Intervention in Breast Feeding in the Belgian Congo,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3 (1988), pp. 401-432. JSTOR.


Amy Kaler, “The White Man in the Bedroom: Contraception and Resistance in Commercial Farms in Colonial Rhodesia” in Poonam Bala ed., Medicine as a Contested Site: Some Revelations in Imperial Contexts (Lanham and New York, Rownman and Littlefield Publishers, 2009), pp. 79-98. E-RESERVE
Recommended Reading:

Lynn M. Thomas, Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction, and the State in Kenya (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2003), Selected Chapters.



Week 09 HIV/AIDS
Tuesday, November 10: HIV/AIDS and Socioeconomic Change

Required Reading

Karen M. Booth, Local Women, Global Science: Fighting Aids in Kenya (Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2004) Bookstore


Read Chapter 1, “Global Medicine, Local Sex, and Crisis,” pp. 1-21; and Chapter 2, “Nairobi’s Casino: Colonizing Aids in the Urban Clinic,” pp. 22-46
Optional Reading:

Philip Setel et.al eds., Histories of Sexually Transmitted Disease and HIV/AIDS in Sub Saharan Africa, Selected Chapters.


Thursday, November 12: HIV Infection Risk and AIDS
Third reflection paper for week 7-9 due today
Required Reading

Karen M. Booth, Local Women, Global Science: Fighting Aids in Kenya (Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2004), pp. 78-126 Bookstore


Read Chapter 4, ““High-Frequency Transmitters” and Invincible Men,” pp.78-107 and Chapter 5 “A Husband Can Have a Thousand Girlfriends!” pp. 108 - 125

Week 10
Tuesday, November 17:

Karen M. Booth, Local Women, Global Science: Fighting Aids in Kenya (Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2004), pp. 126 – 145 Bookstore


Read Chapter 6, “Drugs for Whom? “African AIDS” in the Second Decade,” pp.126 – 145.
Final Reflections on the Course.







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