Strata of Medicine: Health Practitioners and Movements in the Dominican Republic and Greater Caribbean


ACLS Fellowship Program




Scholars across fields are increasingly centering the histories of black health practitioners. “Strata of Medicine” especially excavates healers’ and physicians’ narratives of illness, therapeutics, pharmacology, and political authority in the Dominican Republic between 1900 and 1965. The project explores how health practitioners on the Dominican side of Hispaniola with (in)direct links to other corners of the Greater Caribbean lived, labored, and were socially stratified within their own worlds and as parts of broader health movements that disrupted colonial-imperial, national, and regional boundaries. It probes the complicated but often antagonistic history of biomedicine and the healing traditions of minoritized people to shed light on the relation between infirmity, authority, and state power, while demonstrating that the line between bio and folk medicine was one of continual negotiation and adaptation. Rather than cast any single group of health practitioners as outside or inside the history of biomedicine, this study considers the intersections between them to understand the plurality of healing. Using a variety of primary and other sources, “Strata of Medicine” shows how professional and popular medicine helixed one another in the (un)making of an authoritarian Dominican biomedical state.