“Why Did They Die?”: Biomedical Narratives of Epidemics and Mortality among Amazonian Indigenous Populations in Sociohistorical and Anthropological Contexts

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open access
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Article
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2020
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University of Chicago Press
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Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. Museu Nacional. Departamento de Antropologia Social. Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil/Fundação Oswaldo Cruz. Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública Sérgio Arouca. Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil
Fundação Oswaldo Cruz. Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública Sérgio Arouca. Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil
Universidade de Yale. New Haven, CO, EUA
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Abstract
In the second half of the twentieth century, Indigenous populations from different parts of the world were identified as key subjects in a wide range of investigations into patterns of human biological variation. Focusing on Amazonia, a prominent regionfor such research, this paper explores some of the complex relationships between biomedicine, anthropological knowledge, political regimes, and Indigenous rights. We focus on the roles of Francis L. Black (Yale University) and James V. Neel (University of Michigan), leading American scientists working in lowland South America from the 1970s to the 1990s, in knowledge production and scientific disputes at the intersection of human biology and susceptibility to infectious diseases, as well as the use of specific biomedical technologies (e.g., vaccines). During the Cold War, arguments concerning genetically determined susceptibility to infectious diseases and the role of biomedicine in health care for Indigenous populations became highly disputed, as scientists were concerned about how scientific knowledge could be used in the implementation of public policies. We argue that analysis of unpublished debates about the political implications of the trajectory of biomedical research about Amazonian Indigenous peoples helps to broaden and complexify the global history of human biological diversity research in the post–World War II period
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Região Amazônica
Keywords
Brazil, Health of Indigenous Peoples, Indians, South American, Biomedical Research, Public Policy, Biomedical Technology
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DeCS
Brasil, Saúde de Populações Indígenas, Índios Sul-Americanos, Epidemiologia, Doenças Transmissíveis, Política Pública, Pesquisa Biomédica, Atenção à Saúde, Biomedicina, Ecossistema Amazônico
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SANTOS, Ricardo Ventura; COIMBRA JUNIOR, Carlos Everaldo Alvares; RADIN, Joanna. “Why Did They Die?”: Biomedical Narratives of Epidemics and Mortality among Amazonian Indigenous Populations in Sociohistorical and Anthropological Contexts. Current Anthropology, v. 61, n. 4, 2020.
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0011-3204
DOI
10.1086/710079
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