In this talk, Udodiri R. Okwandu will consider the medicalization and racialization of Black protest during the Civil Rights Movement. During this period, some members of the medical establishment argued that urban rioting and violence in Black communities was due to neurological dysfunction. By contextualizing these claims, Udodiri will demonstrate that medicalizing Black protest was enabled by law and order political ideology and ultimately served to undermine the Black community’s right to equality and freedom in American society. In doing so, Udodiri reveals the political and social motivations that undergird scientific thought and the contemporary implications of this work.
Udodiri R. Okwandu is a doctoral student in the History of Science Department and Presidential Scholar at Harvard University. She speaks widely on the history of medicine to shed light on health disparities and social inequality and to promote justice. She is particularly interested in the ways in which scientific and medical inquiry have been deployed by the state to manage and control marginalized populations. As such, her work critically examines science and medicine’s relationship to power and their ability to enact subjection. Her current work examines the intersection and constructions of race, reproduction, and psychiatric health in the United States and how they undermine the concept of “citizenship” for Black Americans by examining the history of maternal psychiatry.