Call for Book Chapters: Science and Medicine in Cold War Latin America

Call for Book Chapters: Science and Medicine in Cold War Latin America

Call for book chapters: “Science and Medicine in Cold War Latin America.” Anne-Emanuelle Birn (University of Toronto) and Raúl Necochea (UNC-Chapel Hill), co-editors

We welcome proposals for chapter contributions to an edited collection dedicated to analyzing scientific and medical ideas and practices in Cold War Latin America.

The study of science and medicine during the Cold War poses essential challenges to our understanding of Latin America’s cultural and social life in the second half of the twentieth century, yet has been all but overlooked by scholars. Development programs, ideologies of universalism proposed by the world’s two superpowers, and techno-scientific competition and leadership were all features of an era that influenced, and was influenced by, local and transnational events. Far from a mere contextual backdrop, the Cold War was a complex component of scientific and medical/health regimes with influences that endure to this day in Latin America. This collection aims to go beyond Cold War specialists’ traditional focus on the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union (and their major allies), and instead focuses our attention on the strategies used in Latin America by different groups of local, regional, transnational, and foreign actors to manipulate the rivalry between Western and Eastern blocs to suit their own cultural and political dispositions or to further their professional, institutional, national, and regional interests.

The range of issues and themes to be covered in this volume include:

1.      The intense disease eradication campaigns during the Cold War, which shed light on the strategic import of certain regions of Latin America for the United States, as well as the ways in which particular regimes used the U.S.-Soviet contest to further national projects of state-building.

2.      The anxiety over population growth in the “Third World,” which spurred a series of technical and social science innovations to attempt to curb this growth, and were met with a variety of expected (e.g. national support for population control programs in regions marked by poverty and social activism) and less expected responses (e.g. Catholic Church support) in distinct settings.

3.      The initiatives of subaltern groups in Latin American societies, including women, the poor, indigenous groups, rural peasants, and racialized groups, who were not passive participants in governmental plans to better manage them, but who instead attempted to negotiate the terms of this asymmetric relationship, including through relationships with international actors, such as UN agencies, foundations, and nongovernmental organizations.

4.      Science-driven local, national, and transnational projects to “modernize” and more efficiently manage physical geographies and natural and human resources in pursuit of greater economic output and cultural distinction. Such initiatives enjoined novel mechanisms to fund scientific research endeavors, train and educate experts, and interact with international scientific/cultural agencies.

5.      The role of the political and scientific context of the Cold War in the development of welfare states. Although the emergence of welfare states in much of Latin America dated from earlier in the 20th century, Cold War geopolitics shaped new forms of redistributive and social security militancy and corporatized/professional social policy making around health care and well-being services, both challenging and reinforcing the region’s diverse political cultures.

Please send a proposal (500 words maximum) by April 30, 2012, to the editors, Anne-Emanuelle Birn, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, U. of Toronto (, and Raúl Necochea, Dept. of Social Medicine, U. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill ( Around May 30, 2012, contributors will be invited to submit full chapters (up to 8000 words, plus notes), which will be due by November 15, 2012. Chapters may also be submitted in Spanish, Portuguese, or French and will be translated into English. Ted Brown, the editor of the University of Rochester Studies in Medical History series, has expressed strong interest in the volume and has already placed it on a prospective titles list. The book as a whole, and each invited chapter, will undergo full peer-review by the standard editorial process.

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