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Syphilis and Sex: Transatlantic Medicine and Public Health in Argentina and the United States, 1880-1940

Comte, Julien (2013) Syphilis and Sex: Transatlantic Medicine and Public Health in Argentina and the United States, 1880-1940. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation explores the international response to syphilis before the advent of penicillin in the 1940s. I focus on Argentina and the United States and within these two countries on New York and Buenos Aires. Since Paris, like New York and Buenos Aires, was an important node in a transatlantic system of scientific and policy exchange, I investigate first and foremost the connections between historical actors in France, Argentina, and the United States. My research pushes Atlantic history beyond the turn of the nineteenth century—the traditional ending point for most Atlantic historians—and explores the idea of a multi-centered Atlantic world, where knowledge circulated in all directions and between various nodes. By moving back and forth between different scales of analysis, this dissertation shows how subnational, national, and region-wide networks were imbricated into Atlantic and global circuits. Analyzing the relationship between Atlantic and national networks allows me to underscore the persistence of the national in the transnational. In a number of ways, rather than eliminate national boundaries, the transnational currents I examine reified national differences, as the people who shaped venereal disease control in France, Argentina, and the United States engaged in repeated cross-national comparisons.
International scientific understandings and policy proposals were filtered through local and national concerns, resulting in different outcomes in different parts of the world. More than the demonstration effect, local political and cultural landscapes shaped the relationship between science and public policy. My discussion of sex education programs highlights the impact of transnational discourses on local conceptions of gender and sexuality. Furthermore, informed by shared eugenic concerns, all governments worried about the potential impact of syphilis on the collective welfare of the nation. However, in each case, the precise articulation between medical professionals, scientists, maternalist activists and other social reformers, on the one hand, and municipal, state, and national level politicians and bureaucrats, on the other, determined the ultimate evolution of public health laws and institutions. This dissertation blends transnational history and world history by using the transatlantic history of syphilis prevention as a window onto the formation of modern interventionist states.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Comte, Julien
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairPutnam, Laralep12@pitt.eduLEP12
Committee MemberAndrews, George Reidreid1@pitt.eduREID1
Committee MemberMuller, Edwardekmuller@pitt.eduEKMULLER
Committee MemberReeser, Toddreeser@pitt.eduREESER
Date: 30 June 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 March 2013
Approval Date: 30 June 2013
Submission Date: 14 April 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 229
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Atlantic global venereal race science syphilis
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Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2013 18:47
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:12

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  • Syphilis and Sex: Transatlantic Medicine and Public Health in Argentina and the United States, 1880-1940. (deposited 30 Jun 2013 18:47) [Currently Displayed]


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