White Health as Global Health

8 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2023

See all articles by Matiangai V. S. Sirleaf

Matiangai V. S. Sirleaf

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law; University of Maryland School of Medicine

Date Written: March 28, 2023


With the expansion of European imperialism, public health concerns became globalized, necessitating cooperation with other imperial powers for the treatment and prevention of diseases. This essay traces the role of race and racism in the development of global public health law. It explores the connections, legacies, vestiges, and important disjunctions between tropical medicine and global public health, and considers the primacy given to White health as one of the animating purposes behind the emergence of the global public health regime. The centrality of protecting the health and interests of White people then and now continues to inform the global health agenda. This essay surfaces the role of international law through omission and commission in structuring and reifying racialized hierarchies of care and concern. It concludes that transformational reforms aimed at addressing this legacy are necessary.

Keywords: racism, colonialism, global public health, tropical medicine, Global South, plague, infectious disease, racial capitalism, international sanitary convention, travel bans, Conceptual Zero Draft,

Suggested Citation

Sirleaf, Matiangai V. S., White Health as Global Health (March 28, 2023). 117 AJIL Unbound 88 (2023)., U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2023-07, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4421879

Matiangai V. S. Sirleaf (Contact Author)

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )

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University of Maryland School of Medicine ( email )

655 W. Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
United States

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