Abstract

British women have hitherto been almost absent from the history of British colonialism in the Middle East, and particularly in Mandate Palestine (1918–48). By using an individual tale of a British nurse as a vantage point, the article explores the personal and professional experiences of British nurses in Mandate Palestine and scrutinizes their contested status. As women, as British, as medical practitioners, and specifically as nurses, British nurses present a singular type of local-level imperial agent who confronted multiple challenges to their identities. Empowered as imperial agents of health, biomedicine, and hygiene, they had exercised professional, cultural, and racial authority over indigenous people. At the same time, their gender, vocation, and marital status have limited their scope of influence within a male-dominated medical hierarchy, as well as locate them at the lower strata of British colonial society. Nurses’ tales thus offer a unique perspective for investigating colonial power relations and the intersections of medicine, gender, race, and class.

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