Leprosy and Empire. The Shaping of Public Health Regimes in Multicultural Contexts: Suriname and the Dutch East Indies, 1800-1950
01 / 2012 - 12 / 2014
This research project seeks to understand colonial governance and health policies in a multicultural context by focusing on the case of leprosy. Recent research into the production, transfer and implementation of (scientific) knowledge has shown that the building of public health structures in the multicultural context of colonies was not a matter of simply exporting western biomedical knowledge, implanting it on a passive indigenous population. Disease concepts varied according to time, place and cultural setting. By looking at the case of leprosy in the Dutch colonial empire, the proposed research intends to offer a detailed examination of negotiated relationships between indigenous and imperial medicine. It seeks to understand the complex reciprocity between knowledge, attitudes and practices towards leprosy over time and across the globe by comparing the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Suriname. With a keen eye for the agency of leprosy sufferers, it will look at the way in which colonial health policies came into being. Leprosy has always been a disease with strong - and controversial - connotations. For that reason, it may serve as a 'projection screen' on which notions of illness, disease, power and control are projected. As a whole, the project will enhance our understanding of how forms of citizenship and governance are shaping disease control policies. Because the research is looking at the links between disease and stigma, and at processes of inclusion and exclusion, it is relevant to contemporary understandings of health policy and bio-security. As such, the proposed research can contribute to the understanding of health and disease in a globalizing world.