Health, State and Society in Kenya

Health, State and Society in Kenya

Faces of Contact and Change

George Ndege


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University of Rochester Press



An examination of the conflicts and compromises between Western biomedicine and African traditional therapies in colonial Kenya.
This book examines the conflicts brought on by the introduction, management and institutionalization of Western biomedicine into Kenya. From the dawn of the colonial age, there were conflicts over the issues and meanings of sickness, health and therapy. Conversations often broke down, especially during the first two decades of the twentieth century, because of the natural and strong desire on the part of local populations, the state and biomedical practitioners to protect their respective hallowed traditions, approaches and identities.
However, the persistence of epidemics, spiraling mortality rates, the interdependent nature of the colonial economy, and the establishment and recommendations of Commissions of Inquiry turned the tensions of race and conflict into dialogues about accommodation and compromise. The focus on a common good, rather than upon partisan satisfaction, became a dominant force. Western biomedicine and African traditional therapies each contributed to the growth and development of colonial health care in Kenya.

George Ndege is Professor of History at St. Louis University.


December 2001
296 pages
9x6 in
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
ISBN: 9781580460996
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC SOC002010, HEA028000, MED039000
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Table of Contents

The Unsettling Contact: Epidemics, Biomedicine and the Ideology of Order
In Search of Compromise: Economy, Labor, War and Related Epidemics
Careers in Health and Healing: Competing Visions of Training and Practice
The Burden of Expansion and Reform in the Interwar Period
Grappling with Change in the Age of Transition and Anxiety: Decolonization, Independence, and AIDS


This is an important and well-written history. AFRICAN HISTORY

(This book) is an important addition to the work on health care in East Africa, as well as providing insights into the process of formulation of colonial and post-colonial health policy, and the debates within African local government institutions. JOURNAL OF IMPERIAL AND COMMONWEALTH HISTORY

The author has a good familiarity with the anthropological and historical literature and an eye for important moments and key forces in the history of twentieth-century Kenyan health care. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF AFRICAN HISTORICAL STUDIES, Volume 36 Number 2, 2003

This work does a great service by discussing major issues related to government authority and health in language those outside the disciplines of history and anthropology can easily follow. For health-care professionals and general readers, this study will be a valuable introduction to the politics of health care in Kenya. JOURNAL OF INTERDISCIPLINARY HISTORY, Spring 2004

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