British Colonial Blood Banks: Transfusing Blood and Racial Science Ideologies in Colonial Kenya (1930s-1950s) Open Access

Dantzler, Alexa Victoria (2017)

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This thesis explores the intersection of race, empire, medicine and pseudoscientific ideology during the height of British rule in colonial Kenya from the 1930s to the 1950s. British scientists and physicians moved to colonial Kenya and brought with them new life-saving European scientific technologies, such as blood transfusions. They also brought with them widely accepted racial scientific ideologies that influenced medical experimentation expeditions to find empirical biological evidence for the hierarchy of race. These scientific ideologies quickly influenced the deliberate racialization of blood transfusion services that reflected the highly racialized order of colonial Kenyan society segregated into communities of Europeans, Africans, and Asians (Indians). Each racial group had access to its own blood bank, yet not all blood banks functioned equally. Using primary sources, I illustrate how the highly racialized nature of blood banks diminished the life-saving power of blood transfusion technologies by putting the health of patients at risk. Additionally, I explore how British colonial medical authorities justified the segregation of colonial blood banks using pseudoscientific evidence and rhetoric from the eugenics movement (which began in Kenya in the 1930s). This pseudoscientific research sought to prove African "backwardness" and European racial superiority while legitimizing British occupation in colonial Kenya and facilitating the racial agenda of the British colonial empire. Finally, I argue the racialization of blood banks defeated the humanitarian role of the British physicians who came to practice medicine in colonial Africa.

Table of Contents

  1. Chronology
  2. List of Figures
  3. Introduction
  4. The Origins of the State and Race in Kenya
  5. White Settlers' Encounter with Tropical Disease
  6. The Origins and Transition of Racial Science from Europe to Africa
  7. Pseudoscience Justified Racial Science
  8. The Racialization of Colonial Blood Banks
  9. Challenges in the Operation of Racial Blood Banks
  10. Plans for an Interracial Blood Bank
  11. Conclusion
  12. Afterward
  13. Bibliography

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