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Caring for Foreign Bodies: Healthcare’s Role in Immigrant Assimilation, 1890-1945

March 13, 2016 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America – Public Opening  

Speaker: Dr. Alan Kraut, American University

Sunday, March 13, 1:00pm

Included with Museum Admission

Physicians on Ellis Island in New York Harbor check the eyes of immigrants for signs of trachoma, c. 1910. Courtesy of The National Library of Medicine

Physicians on Ellis Island in New York Harbor check the eyes of immigrants for signs of trachoma, c. 1910. Courtesy of The National Library of Medicine

In 1914, during a peak era of immigration to the United States, E.A. Ross, a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin  insisted that the “foreign blood being injected into the blood of ‘our people’ is ‘subcommon.’ He scoffed at the unassimilable foreigners, taking aim at Southern Italians, Slavs, and Eastern European Jews. Others targeted Latinos and Asians. Newcomers and their advocates disagreed. Foreign bodies became contested terrain in the battle over whether newcomers’ bodies were fit for America. Because migration has been and continues to be so central to the America’s peopling, the subsequent process of integrating newcomers into American society has been an essential and recurring aspect of the American narrative. However, in every era there have been those who doubt that foreign bodies can be assimilated. This presentation demonstrates how in the period from 1890 to 1945 physicians, many of them immigrants themselves, became cultural mediators in the assimilation negotiation, encouraging newcomers to forge robust bodies even as their respective ethnic or religious groups organized and supported healthcare institutions responsive to both newcomers’ medical requirements and cultural preferences, a pattern that remains a dimension of the current dialogue over assimilation of the foreign-born.

Details

Date:
March 13, 2016
Time:
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm