Isabelle Lespinet-Moret

Medical experts and occupational health in the International Labour Organization, 1919-1940

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Experts, Occupational health, Epistemic community, International labor Organization, Scientific legitimacy.

The International Labour Organization’s mission is to establish social justice for workers throughout the world, a mission that requires prior observation and investigation in order to propose reforms on all issues concerning working conditions; the issue of occupational health, which represents a part of this reform, is dealt with by the Industrial Hygiene Service. Three doctors are recruited as international civil servants and, above all, more than a hundred doctors are integrated into a Correspondence and Advisory Committee to advise the ILO as experts. The article proposes to examine the complex processes of their recruitment and networking of occupational medicine experts, the functioning of commissions and subcommittees, the role of experts in the International Labour Office and their contribution to the transnational construction of knowledge on occupational diseases and health at work, raising questions of cognitive neutrality, legitimacy and adequacy between theoretical and practical knowledge, as well as political commitment. The question of scientific neutrality is confronted with the possible involvement of experts or their social or national affiliation, which can guide their analysis. Are they or are they not an epistemic community above all?

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