César Ernesto Abadía-Barrero

Jun 3, 2023

Health in Ruins

The Capitalist Destruction of Medical Care at a Colombian Maternity Hospital

Duke University Press 2022

In Health in Ruins: The Capitalist Destruction of Medical Care at a Colombian Maternity Hospital (Duke UP, 2022), César Ernesto Abadía-Barrero chronicles the story of El Materno—Colombia’s oldest maternity and neonatal health center and teaching hospital—over several decades as it faced constant threats of government shutdown. Using team-based and collaborative ethnography to analyze the social life of neoliberal health policy, Abadía-Barrero details the everyday dynamics around teaching, learning, and working in health care before, during, and after privatization. He argues that health care privatization is not only about defunding public hospitals; it also ruins rich traditions of medical care by denying or destroying ways of practicing medicine that challenge Western medicine. Despite radical cuts in funding and a corrupt and malfunctioning privatized system, El Materno’s professors, staff, and students continued to find ways to provide innovative, high-quality, and noncommodified health care. By tracking the violences, conflicts, hopes, and uncertainties that characterized the struggles to keep El Materno open, Abadía-Barrero demonstrates that any study of medical care needs to be embedded in larger political histories.

If you are interested in a conversation in Spanish about this book listen to this episode of New Books Network en español

Host María Camila Núñez Gómez is a professor interested in social studies on health, diseases, and science. 

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