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Native Medical Practitioners, Temporality, and Nascent Biomedical Citizenship in the New Hebrides

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Abstract

While governing the New Hebrides from 1906 to1980, a British-French Condominium hired Pacific Islanders who had been trained in Fiji as Native Medical Practitioners (NMPs), to deliver primary health care and to offer public health education to the declining indigenous population. The NMPs’ medical work was also expected to expand colonial governance in a culturally diverse archipelago with no prior centralized state. Focusing on the 1920s through the1940s, I suggest that the NMPs’ attempts to inculcate a sense of responsibility for individual health and civic involvement in their patients, as well as demands made by the NMPs themselves for civic entitlements, were forms of nascent biomedical citizenship. I propose that the practices of nascent biomedical citizenship, significant as they were, also had the potential to be exclusionary because they presumed the creation of a civic subject oriented toward a particular kind of future and a selective recuperation of the past.

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