Social medicine, medical geography and health care for indigenous peoples: “Ethnic Pathology” (Max Kuczynski, 1925) in Germany, Russia, Latin America and beyond

Georg-Büchner-Saal, Alte Universitätsbibliothek, Bismarckstr. 37, Gießen
Institut für Geschichte der Medizin, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
24.11.2006 - 26.11.2006
M. Knipper

The goal of the conference is to gather scholars from various countries and disciplines (e. g. history of medicine, general history, medical anthropology, medical geography and public health) for a joint analysis of the questions raised by the concept of “ethnic pathology”, developed by the German-Peruvian pathologist and social hygienist Max Kuczynski (Berlin, 1890 – Lima, 1967). Designed as analytical tool to grasp social and cultural as well as physical and biological aspects of disease, the “ethnic pathology” approach raises important questions about the theoretical and methodological responses to the challenges for health care and research especially in rural and indigenous populations. Rooted in different medical traditions and scientific currents of late 19 th and early 20 th century (like medical geography, social medicine, bacteriology and hygiene, as well as pathology, social and cultural anthropology), the “ethnic pathology”-approach will be taken as starting point for a broad examination of the development, transnational extension and local adaptation of social medicine, hygiene and related fields in the first half of the 20 th century. Further, the remarkable international dimension of Kuczynski’s research activities in Europe, Central Asia and Latin America will lead to a comparative perspective in an explicitly “global” scale, with special emphasis on the “periphery” of the industrialized world. A specific aim of the conference is to give space for an interdisciplinary and multinational dialogue about medical approaches to social and ethnic diversity. Based on historical insights about the origins and the constraints of particular disciplines and methodologies in different historical and cultural contexts, it will be possible to re-evaluate current approaches in medicine and international health and to develop creative responses to health problems in the “globalized” world of today.


Friday, November 24

13:00-15:00 Registration and lunch
15:00-15:30 Opening and Introduction
Marcos Cueto (Lima) & Michael Knipper (Gießen): Kuczynski and “ethnic pathology” in Germany, Russia, Latin America and beyond: facts, topics and questions

15:30-16:45 Session 1: International Health and Social Medicine in the European Context in the first half of the 20 th century.
Iris Borowy (Rostock): The politics of international scientific cooperation in medicine and health during the interwar period.
Paul Weindling (Oxford): Forging an International Scientific Coalition against Racism, 1918-40.
17:00-18:30 Session 2: The “ethnic pathology”-approach at the interface of pathology, medical history and ethnography
Cay-Rüdiger Prüll (Freiburg): The “ethnic pathology”-approach in the context of contemporary German pathology (1900-1933).
Michael Knipper (Gießen): Friends and foes in 19 th century medical sciences: Kuczynski’s reception of August Hirsch, Rudolf Virchow and Julius Hirschberg.
Josep Comelles (Tarragona): Ethnographic methods between medicine, psychiatry and ethnography in the first decades of 20 th century.

Saturday, November 25

9:30-11:30 Session 3: Medical geography and social hygiene in the “east”
Marius Turda (Oxford): Rural Biology in Interwar Romania: A Peripheral Case in Ethnic Pathology?
Jochen Richter (Berlin): Max Kuczynski: a physician in Marco Polo's footsteps
Susan Gross Solomon (Toronto): The Swiss Connection: Max Kuczinski, the West Siberian Medical Institute (Omsk), and Ethnopathology.
Wolfgang Eckart (Heidelberg): With colonial eyes? - Heinrich Zeiss as a traveler in the soviet Union, 1921-1932.

11:45-12:45 Session 4: Medical Sciences and Social Medicine in Latin America (Part 1)
Jaime Benchimol (Rio de Janeiro): Scientific relations between Germany and Brazil (1850-1918)
Magali Romero (Rio de Janeiro): Parasites, pathologies and medical geography: German medical science in Brazil and Argentina in the early 20th Century.

15:00-16:30 Session 5: Medical Sciences and Social Medicine in Latin America (Part 2)
Marcos Cueto (Lima): Social Medicine and Maxime Kuczynski-Godard in the Peruvian Amazon
Juan Pablo Murillo (Lima): The “ethnic pathology”-approach in the history of Peruvian Epidemiology.
Cynthia Pope (New Britain, CT): Marginalization and HIV in Latin America: The case of Mayans and ethnic pathology frameworks of risk in Belize

Sunday, November 26

9:30-10:30 Session 6: The adaptation of “European” medical sciences and social medicine in Africa
Walter Bruchhausen (Bonn): The adaptation of “social medicine” to East Africa. Academic and political influences on colonial health policies, 1920-1970
Glenn Ncube (Harare): “The sick African”: Michael Gelfand’s approach to understanding and curbing disease among the Africans in Colonial Zimbabwe

10:45-12:00 Session 7: Final remarks
Volker Roelcke (Gießen): The “ethnic pathology” approach and the history of medicine: lessons and questions (comment)
Axel Kroeger (Geneva): The “ethnic pathology” approach seen from the perspective of contemporary medicine and International Public Health (comment)
Marcos Cueto (Lima) “…and beyond”: lessons and perspectives for historical research and contemporary international health


M. Knipper

Institut für Geschichte der Medizin
Jheringstr. 6, 35392 Gießen

Social medicine, medical geography and health care for indigenous peoples: “Ethnic Pathology” (Max Kuczynski, 1925) in Germany, Russia, Latin America and beyond, 24.11.2006 – 26.11.2006 Gießen, in: H-Soz-Kult, 07.11.2006, <>.