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Research Article

Trust Me, I’m a Doctor: Explorer-Anthropologists, Medicine, and Colonialism in Argentina, 1863-1881

Author:

Ashley Elizabeth Kerr

University of Idaho, US
About Ashley
Ashley Kerr is an Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Idaho.
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Abstract

Against the backdrop of political and military efforts to resolve the cuestión de indios in Argentina in the second half of the nineteenth century, Argentine and foreign explorers journeyed through Patagonia and the Pampas, studying indigenous communities and publishing their observations in hybrid travelogue-ethnographies. In most of these texts, the explorer-anthropologists narrate moments in which they diagnose, treat, and occasionally cure indigenous bodies, despite having little to no medical training. In this article, I argue that men such as Lucio V. Mansilla, Francisco P. Moreno, Estanislao S. Zeballos, Guillermo Cox, and George Chaworth Musters performed “civilized” medical care as a practical entrance into the communities they wished to study. Indeed, medicine made early anthropology on Argentine soil possible. At the same time, these men also used the discourse of medicine in general to construct gendered and racialized hierarchies. They repeatedly depict non-indigenous medicine as feminized, irrational, and ineffective in contrast to the scientific, civilized, and powerful medicine they practice, even though cracks in their narratives reveal more similarities than differences. In this way, both the practice of medicine by anthropologists and their textual representations of it served to reinforce colonial projects that expanded white, masculine power at the expense of indigenous peoples and women.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.26824/lalr.149
How to Cite: Kerr, A.E., 2020. Trust Me, I’m a Doctor: Explorer-Anthropologists, Medicine, and Colonialism in Argentina, 1863-1881. Latin American Literary Review, 47(93). DOI: http://doi.org/10.26824/lalr.149
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Published on 05 May 2020.
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