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Edna Suárez-Díaz

posts .icon { width: 20px; height: 20px; float: right; position: absolute; right: 30px; bottom: 30px; }Edna Suárez-Díaz

I received my Ph.D. from UNAM in 1991 from the National University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM), where I have been a Full Professor since 1996. Between 2005 and 2008 I was a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. I have been a visiting scholar at Rühr University, Bochum (Germany), and Oregon State University (USA).

My work has focused on the molecularization of evolutionary biology, and the relation between human variation and disease in the second half of the twentieth century. I explored the history of these developments, including the introduction of computers and statistical analyses in the life sciences, as well as their epistemic implications. This topic led to my current focus on the history of medical genetics and its internationalization after WW2, and my overall interest in the history of technical assistance and development interventions in the so-called Third World. This move has been informed by a transnational approach to the history of science and technology, and science and technology studies.

For more than a decade, I have worked on the mobilization of nuclear sciences and technologies in Mexico and Latin America. The uses of radioisotopes and other “mundane” technologies in the life sciences provided the context for the massive global-scale training of scientists and technicians that took place between 1950 and 1970. The study of nuclear sciences and technologies for “less developed countries” offered the chance to interrogate the material, cultural, and political dimensions of the mobilization of knowledge during the Cold War, beyond the common notion of circulation, topics which I have explored in different publications with my colleague Gisela Mateos. We are now finishing a book tentatively titled Expensive Toys. Mexico and Nuclear Technical Assistance (1950-1968).


My participation at Connecting Three Worlds will focus on the connection between human disease and studies on human variation at a global level, as it played out in the decades after WW2. My previous work on this topic covers the 1960s studies of a range of blood diseases -. e. G6PD anomalies and hemoglobinopathies- in Mexican indigenous communities, which took place in the context of global health campaigns, particularly malaria.

Those studies illustrate the evolving connection between public health and biomedicine amidst the creation of international networks of scientists, many of them working in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, a topic scarcely explored as yet. I aim to extend and reconfigure that previous research to cover international -and unanticipated- networks of physicians and scientists, and to interrogate the connection between public health and biomedicine in contexts of socialist medicine and across the political fractures of the post WW2 era.

Regarding the Latin American part of the project, we will focus on two broad areas. First, the Cold War weaponization of medicine and public health in the Latin American context, which facilitated global alliances and networks that went beyond the expected political divide. This topic requires problematizing the narrative of the history of Latin American public health as dominated by the United States, a job already taken up by a new generation of scholars. As these scholars have shown, during this period Latin American countries experimented with social and economic reform, and we may even speak of “intermittent socialisms”, as well as of different branches of progressive nationalisms, playing out. Except for Cuba, most reformation projects -in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Argentina- were abruptly halted by military coups, though experts, practices, and institutions managed to survive. For this and other historic reasons, Latin America provides an opportunity to contrast and interrogate the -contingent- connections between socialism, medicine, and global health beyond the state as the main actor.

The second area of focus is the creation of transnational networks and alliances between Latin American, Asian, East European, and African countries in the context of multilateral agencies such as the WHO, the FAO, and the Pan American Health Organization. These alliances -notably the Non-Aligned Movement but also other more informal blocs- promoted common interests and international public health policies that were informed at the local level, oftentimes with the participation of progressive actors and social reformists. The aim is to contribute to a more nuanced history of transnational health policies: one that accounts for the active participation of socialist and NAM countries in shaping the goals and practices at multilateral agencies. In this regard, the Latin American experience provides a long history of active participation at regional health agencies.    

Select Publications


Suárez-Díaz Edna. 2017. “Blood diseases in the backyard. Mexican “indígenas” as a Population of Cognition In the Mid-1960s”. Perspectives on Science. Special Issue on Populations of Cognition (ed. By Edna Suárez-Díaz, Vivette García and Emily Vazquez). 2017(5): 606-630.

Suárez-Díaz, Edna, “The molecular basis of disease and evolution: a Cold War alliance” (2019). Journal of the History of Biology. 52(2): 325-347; DOI: 10.1007/s10739-017-9476-9

Torres-Cruz, César & Edna Suárez-Díaz (2019): The stratified biomedicalization of HIV prevention in Mexico City, Global Public Health, DOI: 10.1080/17441692.2019.1679217

Mateos, Gisela and Edna Suárez-Díaz (2020). “Creating the need in Mexico: the IAEA’s technical assistance programs for less developed countries (1958-68)”. History and Technology. Vol. 36, 3-4: 418-436. DOI: 10.1080/07341512.2020.1864116

Mateos, Gisela and Edna Suárez-Díaz (2020). “‘Development interventions: science, technology, and technical assistance.” History and Technology. Vol 3-4: 293-309.  DOI: 10.1080/07341512.2020.1859774

Mateos, Gisela and Edna Suárez-Díaz (2021 forthcoming). “Atomic ambassadors: the IAEA’s First Preliminary Assistance Mission (1958). History and Technology (Special issue on Nuclear diplomacy edited by Maria Rentetzi and Kenji Ito). Vol 37:

Mateos, Gisela and Edna Suárez-Díaz (2019). “Technical assistance in movement: nuclear knowledge crosses Latin American borders”. In: Krige John (ed.). How Knowledge Moves. Writing the Transnational History of Science and Technology. Chapter 12. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Pp. 345- 367. ISBN: 9780226605999, pp.


Mateos, Gisela y Edna Suárez-Díaz. 2015. Radioisótopos itinerantes en Latinoamérica. Una historia de ciencia por tierra y por mar. CEIICH-UNAM: México. ISBN 978-607-02-7230-1.

Mateos, Gisela y Edna Suárez-Díaz (comps). 2016. Aproximaciones a lo local y lo global: América Latina en la historia de la ciencia contemporánea. Centro de Estudios Filosóficos, Políticos y Sociales Vicente Lombardo Toledano: México. ISBN: 978-607-466-088-3. 378 pp.

Suárez Díaz, E. (2017). Evolución y Moléculas. La molecularización de la biología evolutiva en contexto. UNAM/Centro de Estudios Filosóficos, Políticos y Sociales Vicente Lombardo Toledano: México. ISBN: 978-607-466-092-0. Pp. 254.