Syphilis and segregation : a genealogy of medico-racial discourse in the U.S.A.

Jones, Ian (2007) Syphilis and segregation : a genealogy of medico-racial discourse in the U.S.A. Doctoral thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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Regarding Western racism as a field of discourse, Syphilis and Segregation, sketches a general history of a single discursive thread within that field - the attribution of disease in the expression of racism. Discourse fragments from classical to contemporary sources demonstrate the persistence of the discursive link between ideas of 'race' and 'disease' - particularly of sexually transmitted disease - in arguments for the social exclusion of racially-defined social groups. Additionally, referencing a wide range of primary documentary sources, the study explores the policy implications of such a confluence of discourses of contagionism and racial nativism in the USA after 1865, particularly the attribution of syphilis as a racial characteristic of the fictive 'Negro' - and the part this played in the logic and detail of Jim Crow racial segregation. Employing an archaeological approach derived from the work of Michel Foucault, the study argues that • as the germ theory of disease gradually supplanted earlier miasmatic/climatic theories of disease as caused by place, the concept of person-borne disease increasingly informed social encounters and relationships. Americans adopted a wide range of aversive and exclusionary behaviours as the emergent science of microbiology afforded a modern scientific validity to the transhistorical racist caricature of the diseased outsider ; • simultaneously, a growing American racial nativism was typically expressed in discourses of health and pathology and it became commonplace for doctors, politicians and policymakers to attribute both literal diseases, and the metaphorical ills of the US body politic, to the foreigner, the outsider, the racial Other. The view that disease amongst Americans of pioneer stock was imported and spread by the foreign-born immigrant became axiomatic, as did the view of African Americans as a sick and dying race, doomed to extinction, which likewise threatened the health of white America ; • race-conscious immigration and public health measures (such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882), legitimated by contagion fears, became key features of social control in the U.S. itself, as well as in its new colonies, particularly the Philippines. Jim Crow is considered as one of a number of related medicalised policy interventions with regard to America's Others, a feature of a generalised medicalisation of U.S. racism; • evidence from 19th Century US medical journals suggests that the profession very readily attributed syphilis to African Americans after Emancipation, and that Jim Crow' racial segregation was underpinned by doctors' insistent construction of African Americans as a general health threat and especially as a "notoriously syphilis-soaked race".

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis Advisors:
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Subjects: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F001 United States local history
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creatives
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 30 May 2022 11:24
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:56

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