Indicating Health: Leona Baumgartner, Global Development, and the Metrics of Infant Mortality (1950-1980)
Harrison, Emily Ann
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CitationHarrison, Emily Ann. 2017. Indicating Health: Leona Baumgartner, Global Development, and the Metrics of Infant Mortality (1950-1980). Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation tracks the fall of infant mortality as a universal metric in order to examine changes in the management of population vulnerability in the decades immediately following World War II. Today, the metric of infant mortality holds cultural authority but has lost the meanings and uses that it possessed as it rose to be the universal measure of health and development over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Following Dr. Leona Baumgartner to globalized sites in Ecuador, India, and the United States, where the relationship of healthcare and development was renegotiated through the interactions of experts, policymakers, and everyday citizens, I describe the changing character of discourse as global collaborations gave rise to a new science of health and development. I argue that it was these interactions, conditioned by the particular character of post-colonial contexts, rising Cold War tensions, and new data processing capacity, that produced the shift in meaning of infant mortality from a symbol of collective population vulnerability to a moving target to be reduced in itself. This erosion of a metric was an indication of a broader process of demoralization of the ideas, practices, and practitioners of health development at mid-century. Though many of Baumgartner’s ideas, failed in her lifetime, became realized in the new global health emerging after she retired, the spirit and meanings of vital public care that she endorsed remain lost.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42061467
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