Global Health Citizenship from Historical Perspectives: The Case of the World Health Organization

Date: 15 November 2012
Time: 4:30 - 5:30pm
Venue: 404, 4/F, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, The University of Hong Kong

Global Health Citizenship from Historical Perspectives: The Case of the World Health Organization by Dr. Harry Wu (Centre for the Humanities and Medicine, HKU)

seminar posterAbstract:
The ethos of the World Health Organization (1948), 'Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity', hinged on the idea of 'world citizenship' coined by the first and controversial director-general, the Canadian war veteran and psychiatrist Brock Chisholm. Like the WHO, the structure of other United Nations specialized agencies was grounded in the 'spillover' theory proposed by functionalists' imagination that international collaboration in public health measures would ultimately spill over to political areas.

In the early years after the Second World War World, world citizenship presumed the universality of health rights and the hidden aspiration of promoting peace. This philosophy helped to shape the modus operandi associated with the WHO and its many thematic projects. Drawing on examples of malaria eradication in the 1950s, social psychiatry in the 1960s and the case of neglected Chernobyl victims in 1986, which eventually facilitated the appeal for an 'independent WHO', this talk attempts to reappraise this optimistic idea from different social, cultural, and political perspectives, and to assess its historical legacy (including the unexpected aftermaths of these projects) against its original goodwill.

About the Speaker:
Dr. Harry Yi-Jui Wu is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Humanitarian Studies at the Centre for the Humanities and Medicine, University of Hong Kong. His current work deals with the humanitarian intervention of psychiatric sciences in the aftermaths of the Second World War and the anxiety surrounding postwar worldwide rehabilitation. He is now working on a project titled Riding the Whirlwind, Directing the Storm: The Mental Health Unit Experts in the World Health Organization and the Peaceful Use of Atomic Energy.

This event is part of the History Departmental Research Seminar Series.