Governing the Body: Public Health and Urban Society in Colonial Bombay City, 1914-1945

2019-12-06T10:36:47Z (GMT) by Mrunmayee Satam
This thesis aims to study the politics surrounding the management of public health in inter-war Bombay. Most health histories on colonial Bombay stop at the end of the First World War. The inter-war period is crucial for the city, as the city recorded a steep decline in the death rates from the mid-1920s through to the 1940s. The study critically evaluates the contribution of the colonial state, Bombay Municipal Corporation and the civil society in addressing issues related to health and sanitation. The thesis highlights the failure of the colonial state to provide adequate public health infrastructure and argues that this opened up a space for the emergence of alternate forms of urban governmentalities. The civil society and private philanthropy contributed actively to the ‘upliftment’ of the poorer sections of the society and in the provision of healthcare infrastructure.
While evaluating public health policies, this thesis focuses on the influenza pandemic of 1918, the lack of adequate healthcare infrastructure in the city, problems of poverty and overcrowding in the mill district, and the issue of maternal and infant welfare. This dissertation argues that: first, while the condition of the masses remained dismal, the decline in the overall death rates was largely due to the reduction in the mortality figures for the upper class and upper caste population; second, the inter-war period witnessed a patchwork of various health policies initiated by a number of governing agencies; and third, the caste status of an individual was a crucial determinant in accessing healthcare provisions in the city.

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