Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Joseph, Gilbert


This is an intellectual and social history of efforts by the Mexican state to order and transform medical pluralism for developmentalist ends in the highlands of Chiapas state between 1940 and 2000. Focusing on state employees, bilingual and indigenous doctors and midwives, and Mexican and foreign anthropologists, it grounds the emergence of “interculturalidad” – or the project of integrating indigenous traditional medicine into state and non-state health institutions – in a broader history of economic development and modernization and indigenous resistance to and negotiation of capitalist and national integration projects. It shows how efforts to integrate traditional medicine have not just focused on medicinal plants, but have long sought to capture and extract value from the labor of traditional medicine doctors and midwives. As the Mexican state shifted towards a multicultural model of nation formation in the late 1970s, efforts to extract labor from traditional medicine doctors and midwives intensified, leading to the birth of the hemisphere’s first indigenous traditional medicine doctor NGOs in the highland “laboratory” of intercultural health governance, San Cristóbal de las Casas, in 1985.