While we often speak about scientific innovation in the so-called global periphery, what exactly does that look like in Latin America, specifically in Mexico? In this talk I examine case studies that allow us to rethink the role that Mexico has played in redefining history of science and medicine. The focus on Mexico challenges us to ponder why narratives of innovation are not often attached to this space. In general this talk will examine how historical narratives often exclude, downplay, or shift the focus away from this region’s global contributions. Specifically it will examine three examples — health, hunger, and hormones — and explore Mexico’s global impact in each area. For instance, the Green Revolution was launched using hybrid seeds developed in northern Mexico under the auspices of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican government; in the 1950s Mexico was the globe’s leading producer of synthetic steroid hormones and, finally, in the late twentieth century Mexico created a healthcare model that was later exported to several nations. Each case will be examined as a critical lens to explain how we tell stories in the history of science.
About the Speaker
Gabriela Soto Laveaga is Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University. Her current research interests interrogate knowledge production and circulation between Mexico and India; medical professionals and social movements; and science and development projects in the twentieth century. Her first book Jungle Laboratories: Mexican Peasants, National Projects and the Making of the Pill won the Robert K. Merton Best Book prize in Science, Knowledge, and Technology Studies from the American Sociological Association. Her second monograph Sanitizing Rebellion: Physician Strikes, Public Health and Repression in Twentieth Century Mexico examines the role of healthcare providers as both critical actors in the formation of modern states and as social agitators. Her latest book project seeks to re‑narrate histories of twentieth century agriculture development aid from the point of view of India and Mexico. She obtained her Ph.D. in 2001 from UC, San Diego and has held postdoctoral and visiting scholar positions at the medical school at UC, San Francisco in the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the Department of History of Medicine and Bioethics and at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. She was also Director of the Program for Latin American and Iberian Studies at UC Santa Barbara, where she was a professor from 2003 – 2017. She has held numerous grants, including those from the Ford, Mellon, Fulbright, DAAD, and Gerda Henkel Foundations.