front cover of Africa as a Living Laboratory
Africa as a Living Laboratory
Empire, Development, and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870-1950
Helen Tilley
University of Chicago Press, 2011

Tropical Africa was one of the last regions of the world to experience formal European colonialism, a process that coincided with the advent of a range of new scientific specialties and research methods. Africa as a Living Laboratory is a far-reaching study of the thorny relationship between imperialism and the role of scientific expertise—environmental, medical, racial, and anthropological—in the colonization of British Africa.

A key source for Helen Tilley’s analysis is the African Research Survey, a project undertaken in the 1930s to explore how modern science was being applied to African problems. This project both embraced and recommended an interdisciplinary approach to research on Africa that, Tilley argues, underscored the heterogeneity of African environments and the interrelations among the problems being studied. While the aim of British colonialists was unquestionably to transform and modernize Africa, their efforts, Tilley contends, were often unexpectedly subverted by scientific concerns with the local and vernacular. Meticulously researched and gracefully argued, Africa as a Living Laboratory transforms our understanding of imperial history, colonial development, and the role science played in both.


front cover of Osiris, Volume 36
Osiris, Volume 36
Therapeutic Properties: Global Medical Cultures, Knowledge, and Law
Edited by Helen Tilley
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2021
This volume of Osiris takes as its point of departure a simple premise: we have yet to fully flesh out the complex historical interplay between medicine and law across the globe. Therapeutic Properties takes an inventive look at the issue, presenting welcome insights on the worldwide ascendancy of biomedicine, the persistence of nonofficial and unorthodox approaches to healing, and the legal contexts that have served to shape these dynamics.

The contributions draw upon source material from the Americas, Africa, Western Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia to trace the influence of penal and civil codes, courts and constitutions, and patents and intellectual properties on not only health practices but also the very foundations of state-sanctioned medicine. The authors explore, too, how institutions of global governance, including those underpinning empires and trade, have historically created feedback loops that enabled laws and regulatory regimes to spread, amplifying their effects and standardizing approaches to diseases, drugs, professions, personhood, and well-being along the way. Highlighting the payoff of interdisciplinary and transnational analyses, this volume adroitly teases apart how different actors fought to write the rules of global health, rendering certain approaches to life and death irrelevant and invisible, others pathological and punishable by law, and others still, normal and natural.

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