Neocolonialism and Health Care Access among Marshall Islanders in the United States

Credit: Michael R. Duke

In the Marshall Islands, a history of extensive nuclear weapons testing and covert biomedical research, coupled with the U.S.’s ongoing military presence in the country, has severely compromised the health of the local population. Despite the U.S.’s culpability in producing ill health along with high rates of emigration from the islands to the mainland United States, the large portion of Marshallese who reside in the United States face substantial barriers to accessing health care. Drawing from ongoing field research with a Marshallese community in Arkansas, this article explores the multifaceted impediments that U.S.-based Marshall Islanders face in receiving medical treatment. Calling on an expansive and inclusive notion of neocolonialism, I argue that Marshallese structural vulnerability with regard to health and health care treatment derives from their status as neocolonial subjects and from their limited claims to health-related deservingness associated with this status.
L̗ōmn̗ak ko rōttin̗o: Ilo M̗ajel̗, juon bwebwenato kōn kōmmālmel im nuclear baam̗ ko im ekkatak ko rōttin̗o̗ kōn wāwein an baijin ko jelōt armej, barāinwōt an to an ri tarinae ro an Amedka pād ilo aelōn̄ kein, em̗ōj an jelōt ājmour an armej ro ilo aelōn̄ kein. Men̄e alikkar bwe Amedka in ear jino nan̄inmej kein im ej un eo armej rein rej em̗m̗akūt jān āne kein āne er n̄an ioon Amedka, elōn̄ iaan ri M̗ajel̗ rein rej jelm̗ae elōn̄ apan̄ ko n̄an aer del̗o̗n̄e jikin ājmour ko. Jān ekkatak eo ej bōk jikin kiō, jerbal in ej etali kabōjrak rak kein rōlōn̄ im armej in M̗ajel̗ ro ioon Amedka in rej jelm̗ae ilo aer jibadōk lo̗k jikin taktō. Ilo an kar Amedka jibadōk juon jea eo eutiej imejān lal̗ in, ij kwal̗ok juon aō akweelel bwe apan̄ ko an armej in M̗ajel̗ ikijjeen ājmour im jikin taktō ej itok jān aer kar ri kōm̗akoko ilo an kar Amedka lelōn̄ l̗o̗k etan ilo mejān lal̗ im jān aer jab pukot jipan kein ej aer bwe kōn jōkjōk in.

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