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'That's how I saw it anyways': Foucauldian genealogy toward understanding an historical outbreak of amebiasis in Loon Lake



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This thesis explores the utility of the conflated term “colonial medicine” by drawing on events during an historical outbreak of amebic dysentery that occurred on several Indian Reservations near Loon Lake, Saskatchewan, during the 1960s and ‘70s, including a series of government-sponsored drug trials conducted to stem the outbreak. Largely devoid of the racialized notions characterizing primary documents used by previous scholars of ‘colonial medicine’, the medical journal articles, government memorandums, and letters written by physicians in connection with the outbreak and trials reveal their immersion in ‘la clinique’, or an anatomo-clinical discourse similar to what theorist Michel Foucault described in Birth of the Clinic. Conversely, conversations with Loon Lake area community members on the subjects of the outbreak and trials reveal their multiplex and nuanced reactions to medical and colonial discourses. Arguably, then, when writing about past events, historians should weigh ‘medicine’ and colonial discourse separately. Essential methodological consideration was given to the Foucauldian concept of ‘disinterring’ popular knowledge. Drawing on Foucault’s edited works Power/Knowledge and I, Pierre Riviére, the subjugated knowledges of Aboriginal community members, physicians, sanitation workers, and government employees gleaned through interviews and text are contrasted as per his example in these works with the false functionalism of ‘scientificity’. Moreover, when considered in tandem, these subjugated knowledges illustrate a ‘structural violence’, following anthropologist Paul Farmer’s methodology for describing such phenomena in Pathologies of Power. Overarchingly, they obscure the paradigmatic dichotomies (‘doctor’/‘patient’, ‘patient’/the healthy person, ‘colonizer’/‘colonized’, ‘oppressor’/‘oppressed’) espoused in medical, colonial, and even post-colonial discourses. This understanding forces the reflexive recognition that–if we accept rhetorician Christopher Bracken’s assertion in Magical Criticism there is a recourse to savage philosophy within academia–what we say as historians has consequence beyond discourse, possibly creating new ‘subjects’ in a Foucauldian, disciplined society.



history, ethnohistory, Aboriginal history, Aboriginal health history, medical history, Saskatchewan, Loon Lake, amebic dysentery, amebiasis, metronidazole



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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