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Laurence Monnais-Rousselot


The Hilda Neatby Prize French Article


Laurence Monnais-Rousselot, “La médicalisation de la mère et de son enfant : l’exemple du Vietnam sous domination française, 1860-1939”, Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 19(1)(2002): 47-94.

In this article, Laurence Monnais-Rousselot retraces the process of maternal and childhood medicalization by the colonial French authorities in Indochina during the period 1860 to 1939. The study is based on a wide variety of French and Vietnamese sources, and shows how the colonial authorities very early on used the health of the mother and child as the principal means of managing local human resources. Her analysis is careful to put this medicalization of childbirth movement in perspective, situating it with regard to work already done in the West on this issue, but without ever losing sight of the distinctive elements linked to the colonial context. She also draws particular attention to the role played by indigenous midwives and emphasizes the manner in which the urban health authorities had to take into account the pathological context, but also the economic and cultural contexts, as well as the region’s medical traditions and its inhabitants. Qualified as the “spearhead” of French health policy, the medicalization of childbirth is treated in a nuanced manner that highlights the complexity of a process having both imperialist and humanitarian goals and in which women played an active role.