Armus, Diego, ed. Disease in the History of Modern Latin America: From Malaria to AIDS. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

Diego Armus introduces the chapters of this edited volume and locates the different themes within the history of medicine, the history of public health, and the socio-cultural history of disease in Latin America. The authors challenge traditional approaches to the history of medicine and examine disease as a social and cultural construction. Their contributions shed light on new research in the cultural history of medicine and show how disease, like cholera or aids, leprosy or mental illness, was experienced and managed differently in multiple Latin American countries and regions between the late 19th century and the present. Based on the understanding that the meanings of health and sickness are changing and remain contested, the collection takes an interdisciplinary approach to social and cultural history. Focusing on Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, the contributors examine the production of scientific knowledge, domestic public health efforts, as well as initiatives shaped by international agencies. Of particular interest are the connections between ideas of sexuality, disease, nation, and modernity, the role of certain illnesses in state-building processes, welfare efforts sponsored by the state and led by the medical professions, and the boundaries between individual and state responsibilities regarding sickness and health.

Bliss, Katherine E. Compromised Positions: Prostitution, Public Health, and Gender Politics in Revolutionary Mexico City. Univ. Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001.

Katherine Bliss offers an important contribution to the historiography of the Mexican Revolution and to the history of public health and gender politics in Mexico. The revolutionary leadership aimed to eradicate prostitution in Mexico City but failed to address changes in male sexuality that could have prevented the failure of public policies. Focusing on the public debates over legalized prostitution and the spread of sexually transmitted disease in the first half of the 20th century, the author illustrates that political change was compromised by reformers’ archaic views of gender and class, by prostitutes’ outrage over official attempts to undermine their livelihood, and by clients’ unwillingness to forgo visiting brothels despite revolutionary campaigns to promote monogamy, sexual education, and awareness of the health risks associated with sexual promiscuity.

Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Briggs examines the history of Puerto Rican women’s (reproductive) rights, health, and sexuality within the framework of U.S. imperialism. Arguing that U.S. colonial images of working-class Puerto Rican women and their families led to their portrayal as deviant, deficient, and exotic, she sheds light on different stages in public campaigns that led to the “persecution” of different female target groups in “need of reform.” First, policies on the island were geared toward controlling prostitution and promoting legal marriages. Next, colonial administrators began to promote birth control and migration to reduce overpopulation. Finally, since the 1930s, Puerto Rican women were increasingly pushed towards sterilization to avoid unwanted pregnancies. After World War II, the island became a “laboratory” for economic development through rapid industrialization, as well as the testing ground for the newly developed contraceptive pill and massive sterilization campaigns.

Correa, Sonia and Rebecca Reichmann. Population and Reproductive Rights: Feminist Perspectives from the South. London: Zed Books in association with DAWN/New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1994.

Arguing that the topics of health and human rights should not be separated in public policies, the authors illustrate how the perspective of Southern women would change the global approach to (reproductive) health initiatives. The chapters offer insightful contributions to conventional debates on population policies and population control, and encourage discussion of strategies for political action to improve women’s health globally.

Dixon-Mueller, Ruth. Population Policy and Women’s Rights: Transforming Reproductive Choice. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1993.

Dixon-Mueller suggests that the exercise of women’s reproductive rights depends fundamentally on the exercise of women’s rights in other spheres. Coercive population control policies and programs would no longer be “necessary" if women enjoyed their basic economic, political, and social rights, and had genuine reproductive choice. The author’s approach assigns agency to women: by building on women’s concerns regarding their own security and their ability to live healthy lives, it would be possible to address what she calls a "coercive pro-natalism inherent in patriarchal inequalities in the family and society” and to avoid an equally coercive "anti-natalist” agenda.

Guy, Donna J. White Slavery and Mothers Alive and Dead: The Troubled Meeting of Sex, Gender, Public Health, and Progress in Latin America. London: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.

The author connects a wide variety of themes in the history of health and the construction of gender between the beginning and the late middle of the 20th century. First, she addresses early 20th-century roots of medical imperialism and campaigns against legalized prostitution in Latin America, examining Pan-Americanism through early Child Congresses, Child Reform, and the Welfare State. From an insightful study of the politics of Pan-American Cooperation, Guy shifts her focus to Argentina and to the many levels of nation-building, including definitions of citizenship, the gendered dimension of legal rights, the legal construction of patriarchy, and multiple concepts of mothering in Buenos Aires.

Hartmann, Betsy, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control and Contraceptive Choice. New York: Harper and Row, [1987], 1993.

Hartman offers a critique of the health and human rights consequences of population control initiatives taken by the post-World War II U.S. population establishment, by national governments, and by international agencies. She condemns the coercive nature of population control programs and argues in favor of new social and economic policies that would lead to an improvement of living standards, to a more equal position of women in society, and to increased quality of health and family planning services.

Stepan, Nancy L. The Hour of Eugenics: Race, Gender and Nation in Latin America. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1991.

In this seminal study of the history of eugenics in Latin America, Nancy Stepan compares the eugenics movements in Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina to more familiar case studies of Britain, the United States, and Germany. Examining how the field was taken up and transformed by scientists and social reformers, she discusses how approaches to eugenics in Latin America were shaped by multiple political, institutional, and cultural factors in different national and regional settings.