Medical borders: historical, political, and cultural analyses Academic Article uri icon


  • Scientific medicine carries within it an inherent contradiction. On the one hand, given its general scientific inquiry into health and disease, their conditions, etiologies, and treatments, it makes a claim for universality. To justify this claim, at different times and in different places, scientific medicine has prioritized techniques such as the medical gaze and autopsies to assure its diagnoses; it has applied numerical methods in order to have a better grasp of diseases and their possible treatments; it has used laboratory analyses in order to understand life at its molecular level; and more recently it has introduced Randomized Clinical Trials (RCT) in order to generalize clinical treatments. On the other hand, contrary to its universalistic claims, scientific medicine sets up and reifies boundaries. It creates distinctions between the healthy and the sick and defines categories, such as gender and race, that have deep political and social meanings.

publication date

  • January 1, 2006