Towards Revolutionary “Medicine”: Examining Western Medicine as a Colonial Tool
This article explores how the field of medicine transformed societal values during the British colonial era, and how it continues to do so by asserting a Eurocentric view of medicine in former colonies. Based on Samir Amin’s claim that intrinsic to the accumulation of profit in empire was the rapid expansion of capitalism within the colonies (1990), I argue that the institution of capitalist relations in British India from the 18th to the 20th century relied heavily on the imposition of Western medicine. The continuing encroachment of these capitalist relationships in the post-colonial era prevents the revival of indigenous medicine and can be classified as a form of neocolonialism. I employ a plurality of theoretical frameworks from various political theorists—namely Federici, Robinson, Quijano, and Harvey—to demonstrate how Western medicine transformed ecological and social relations within the Indian subcontinent to service Britain’s colonial project. Through the use of each framework as a basis of analysis, I discuss how Western medicine altered gender and environmental relations and created new ones centered on race. I show how these altered relations served the underlying colonial project in British India. Finally, I explicate how neo-colonial forces, by disrupting ecological relations, have prevented the resurgence of indigenous medicine post-partition. The institutionalization of the specific social and ecological relations necessary to colonialism, and more broadly to capitalism, in the subcontinent were implemented, in part, through Western Medicine.
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