Spring 2025

American Medical Injustice

Listed in: History, as HIST-258  |  Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, as SWAG-258


Jen Manion (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 258 [US/TC/TR/TS] and SWAG 258.) This course will examine the history of medicine in the U.S. with a focus on the roots and persistence of structural violence, discrimination, and stigma. The history of medicine was long viewed as the study of the development of new approaches to disease prevention and treatment. However, pathbreaking scholarship on the racist roots of American medicine has called for an examination of how broader social, cultural, and political norms and values shaped medical training and practices. Slavery and colonialism transformed early modern medicine. Specialists in gynecology and obstetrics led the attack on healers and midwives while using enslaved women to practice their methods. This group became leaders of the organized movement to elevate the status of university-trained doctors. We will explore the history and legacy of the American Medical Association in launching the first coordinated campaign against abortion. We will examine the eugenics movement and its effects on those it viewed as racially inferior and/or sexually deviant, including the forced sterilization of BIPOC women and the new classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder. We will study the growth of psychiatry as a specialty, its propagation of abuse against LGBTQ people in the form of lobotomies, electroshock treatment, aversion and conversion therapies, and its legacy as the root of modern homophobia and transphobia. Medical stigma, discrimination, and bias have had profound and devastating consequences for generations of people denied access to lifesaving treatment and care, from the criminalization of abortion to the Tuskegee experiments to HIV/AIDS to transgender healthcare. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Manion.

How to handle overenrollment: priority to juniors and seniors

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: emphasis on reading, writing, and small group discussion.

Course Materials


Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2023