The Geopolitics of Health in South and Southeast Asia : Perspectives from the Cold War to COVID-19, 1948-2021 book cover
1st Edition

The Geopolitics of Health in South and Southeast Asia
Perspectives from the Cold War to COVID-19, 1948-2021

Edited By

Vivek Neelakantan

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after February 22, 2023
ISBN 9781032364537
February 22, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge
192 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations

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USD $160.00

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Book Description

This book analyses the complexity of South and Southeast Asia in international health, taking into account the impact of the geopolitics of the Cold War on the development of public health and development in the regions.  

In light of the recent health pandemic, which has mobilized experts and governments and led to a securitized approach to global health, this book offers a regional approach to global health histories. The chapters provide case studies ranging from the Cold War to the present time and covering countries from across South and Southeast Asia. Contributors analyse issues related to disease control, an adjunct to wider Cold War geopolitics. They also examine the responses of regional organizations, particularly the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), towards COVID-19. Collectively, the book illustrates how narrowly-conceived global health programs implemented by aid agencies failed to account for the local, national or regional contexts. 

Situating health in South and Southeast Asia in broader global contexts, the book will be a valuable contribution to the History of Medicine and Health and Political Economy of South and Southeast Asia.

Table of Contents

Introduction, Vivek Neelakantan; 1. "The Monsoon Asia of Geographers": The Cold War Beginnings of the WHO Regional Office for Southeast Asia (SEARO), 1948-60, Vivek Neelakantan; 2. The Cold War, Non-Alignment and Medicine in India: The Case of Medical Education and Pharmaceutical Self-Sufficiency, 1947-57, Shirish Kavadi; 3. Malaria Eradication and Modernization in Maldives and Sri Lanka, 1941-84, Eva-Maria Knoll; 4. Thailand’s Rural Doctor Society in the 1970s and 1980s and its Struggles to Improve Health in the Countryside, Davisakd Puaksom; 5. Civic Space in Southeast Asia in the Time of COVID-19: The Case of Maritime Southeast Asia, Khoo Ying Hooi; 6. Neighbors Rally Against the Virus: The Case of SAARC, Vivek Neelakantan

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Vivek Neelakantan is a Southeast Asian medical historian and a 2023 Brocher Visiting Fellow, sponsored by the Brocher Foundation, Switzerland. His current research investigates the origins of primary healthcare in Southeast Asia from a transnational perspective.


"This book is a welcome addition to the historiography of global health. Its unique focus on region-specific approaches to examining disease eradication allows it to historicise postcolonial nation-states, Cold War politics, and international aid organizations. The range of themes here; from primary health infrastructure in postcolonial India to querying the concept of erosion of civic space in ASEAN countries at the time of coronavirus epidemics, for instance, will interest research scholars as well as the curious general reader."

-Nandini Bhattacharya, Associate Professor (South Asian History and History of Medicine), Department of History, University of Houston


"This volume pioneers the field with an explicit argument for regional history to fill the gaps between global history and transnational and national history. The studies are comprehensive and informative on major issues of integration and divergence of regional history, illustrated by the policies and politics of public health from the Cold War to the pandemic of Covid-19."

-Professor Liping Bu, Reid Knox Professor and Chair, Alma College, Michigan