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Van ‘triomfalisme’ naar ‘postkolonialisme’: Trends in de geschiedschrijving van de tropische geneeskunde


Myriam Mertens

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From ‘Triumphalism’ to ‘Postcolonialism’: Trends in the Historiography of Tropical Medicine

This article highlights some of the most remarkable trends in the historiography of tropical medicine. Focusing on the literature that deals with the 19th and 20th centuries, it describes how by the 1980’s triumphalist, apologetic histories were replaced by critical studies that revealed the less positive sides of tropical medicine. It also talks about the increasing influence in medical historiography of the postcolonial body of thought and its dynamic perspective on colonial categories and relations. This postcolonialism turns out to be a fruitful approach, as is shown especially by recent studies that focus on the production of tropical medical knowledge. In fact, the historiography of tropical medicine increasingly contributes to the growing body of literature on science and imperialism that looks for postcolonial alternatives to the diffusionist paradigm. This concern to reject diffusionism (which views imperialism as the basis for the spread of European science to the non-western world) has been noticeable particularly in the Anglo-Saxon academic world. This article calls for the adoption of similar approaches in other historiographic traditions.

How to Cite: Mertens, M., 2009. Van ‘triomfalisme’ naar ‘postkolonialisme’: Trends in de geschiedschrijving van de tropische geneeskunde. Studium, 2(2), pp.78–91. DOI:
Published on 01 Jun 2009.
Peer Reviewed


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