Tuberculosis and urban growth: Class, race and disease in early Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Sara E. Grineski, Robert Bolin, Victor Agadjanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Healthseekers [i.e., people seeking climactic cures from diseases, such as tuberculosis (TB)] migrated to the American West starting in the 19th century. Local officials, interested in promoting urban growth, capitalized on this phenomenon by aggressively advertising for healthseekers. This paper analyzes the case of TB in Phoenix, Arizona, USA during its period of early growth (1880-1946) to demonstrate how social constructions of disease intersected with political constructions of race and class to produce pathologized bodies and stigmatized places. Contradictions in Phoenix's pro-growth strategy are discussed in this paper, along with strategies employed by city leaders to 'solve' them. These strategies included an emergent discourse by those in power that served to construct race, class and place-based inequities. Further, ideological and spatial strategies were instantiated to ensure that other Phoenix residents did not 'see' the injustices being produced. The material results of these discursive strategies included dilapidated housing, a lack of urban infrastructure, and lack of health-care services for minorities and the poor in Phoenix. Those in power, in the name of private accumulation and urban growth, had constructed a context in which poor persons with TB were spatially isolated and socially stigmatized while wealthy whites with TB were socially, culturally and environmentally advantaged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-616
Number of pages14
JournalHealth and Place
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Arizona
  • Discourse analysis
  • Health inequalities
  • Phoenix
  • Social construction of disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Urban development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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