Healthy Imaginations: A Social History of the Epidemiology of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health

Brough, Mark K. (2001) Healthy Imaginations: A Social History of the Epidemiology of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health. Medical Anthropology : Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness, 20(1), pp. 65-90.


It is difficult to imagine Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health without the powerful descriptors of epidemiology. The statistical imagery of numerical tables, pie charts, and bar graphs have become a key element in the public presentation of Indigenous public health issues. Such quantitative measurements of health draw on the authority of neutral, objective science and are thus rarely questioned in terms of their social meaning. This paper traces the history of this imagery through the 20th century, providing a social account of epidemiological description. Historical notions such as social Darwinism, assimilation, and dangerous other are all seen to be woven into the epidemiological text. The enormous rise in the epidemiological description of Indigenous health problems in recent years needs to be analyzed as a social phenomenon and, in particular, as an aspect of emerging forms of governmentality. Finally, it is argued that such analyses are needed in order to promote an anthropology of epidemiology and to avoid limiting medical anthropology to applications within epidemiology.

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8 citations in Scopus
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ID Code: 10168
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Epidemiology, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Health, Social History
ISSN: 1545-5882
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (111701)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Social Change Research
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > QUT Carseldine - Humanities & Human Services
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2001 Taylor & Francis
Copyright Statement: First published in Medical Anthropology 20(1):pp. 65-90.
Deposited On: 16 Oct 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 12:47

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