GASA02H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 10: Leper Colony, Global Asia, Brahmin
DepartmentGlobal Asia Studies
Global Asia Studies Lecture 10
Focus of lecture: Disease - a look into disease flood, famine and war. Disease discussed within
this lecture includes: leprosy, cholera, plague, kala-azar and Severe Acute Respiratory
o What is blight?
It is essentially something that ends with destruction
Any cause of impairment, destruction, ruin, or frustration
o There are three categories in which disease can be labeled:
1. Endemic disease – saps a community over time
Belonging exclusively or confined to a particular place
2. Epidemic disease – strikes urbanized communities suddenly
Affecting many persons at the same time, and spreading from person to person
in a locality where the disease is not permanently prevalent.
3. Pandemic disease – global spread
Prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world;
epidemic over a large area.
o Leprosy (bacterial, not highly contagious):
What is leprosy?
An ancient disease that is not highly infectious, chronic bacterial disease; cause
found by Hansen in 1870
Formerly believed to be highly contagious and sexually transmitted
Social stigma remains; ideas of corruption and degeneration; leper colonies
The beginning of leprosy starts off with the Judeo-Christian understanding of this
disease, as that view has a substantial impact on the management of the disease in
“And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare,
and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, unclean, unclean.All the
days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall
dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.”
Within the Old Testament this was seen as a disease that rendered the sick
unclean, to be sent away.
In the new testament, Jesus tolerates and heals lepers = new tradition of
Christian leper care missionary leper colonies which inspired these parts of
South Asia and China
Reading 10.1 – A glimpse at the Indian mission field and leper asylums in 1886-87
The author accounts of a journey in India which consists of rough notes and the
glimpse that he caught of the work of the different missions as he passed on his
He is very conscious of the imperfect attempt he has made to give the
impressions produced on his own mind – his object was to visit as many Leper
Asylums as possible visiting Bombay, Madras, and Bengal presidencies
Growing important of mission work amongst the lepers of India, and the
increasing interest awakened in their spiritual and temporal welfare
amongst Christians at home,
In the Bombay asylum called the Dharmsala – a place destined for all
kinds of destitute natives, but considerable more than half the inmates
are lepers who live in a part railed off from the others.
Described as a sad community of 150 doomed ones; wifeless
husbands, husbandless wives, children without parents, and
parents without children who have been driven out of house and
home by their relatives as soon as it became known that they fell
to the leper disease
Even the early disease developers had to live with the
people who had the last stage of leprosy and view the
stages to their death as well
In the Dharmsala there is no attempt made to separate the
sexes; men, women, and children are all huddled together
in cells, 6 by 8 ft, two people occupying one cell, and in
some cases, where there are children, there are more than
two in one.
Lepers described to have black blood flowing free in order
to relieve the itching; poor maimed limbs, and distorted
faces, latter generally wearing a dull, hopeless expression,
showing clearly that all brightness has long since gone out
of their lives
In madras he experienced the asylum very differently; temperature in
Madras were much lower than in Bombay
Most of the inmates were Christian; they were separated amongst
their respected groups (gender, age, etc.)
They were being educated about their disease, and they’re was a
much cleaner environment with a more modernized approach to
Reading 10.3 – The Susrutasamhita:
Discusses the diagnosis of skin diseases especially the fearful prejudice against
Kustha = leprosy and paparogam =disease
They say that the disease of leprosy arises as a result of [bad] deeds
such as slaying a brahmin, a woman or a virtuous person, or theft.
A child born of a man and woman whose blood and semen are tainted
with leprosy should be regarded as leprous.
If one dies with leprosy one gets it again when one is born again.
Therefore there is no worse disease. [Thus] is leprosy declared.
The person who maintains the recommended practice of diet and
regimen may, through the use of specific medicines and austerity, be
released [from leprosy] and gain a state of health.
Pilgrimage and leprosy in South Asia & China and is diaspora:
The article describes the attention given to leprosy in centers of pilgrimaging
such as Puri and Orissa
Leprosy was early viewed as a condition of impurity. Buddhist asylums aimed to
purify leprosy patients through ritual and good conduct.
The idea of contagion arose in the 13th century
A model was established of segregation in non-religious institutions,
medical treatment and productive labour aimed at improving character
Can relate to previous lecture from the Buddhist aim to purify through
good conduct; also curable with medication
From 16th century, nonreligious asylums; purify through medicine and
labour; also from 16th century, Christian missionary asylums
In 19th century, China seen as a dangerous source of leprosy
Chinese diaspora regarded as conduit of global spread of the disease
Western style ”hygienic modernity” adopted to overcome stigma of
association with the disease
o What is cholera?
Cholera is a bacterial disease, most commonly spread water-borne and is highly
It brought forth the importance of sanitation
1854 John Snow determines association with contaminated water
In 1869 the Suez Canal was opened, joining the east and the west.
Suddenly, the Haj to Mecca became possible for more pilgrims. European
and Colonial anxiety over the disease threat presented by the pilgrimage
was raised. The large outbreak of cholera at Mecca in 1865 and its
spread through Europe had already given warning of the possibility of
disease spread. Pilgrims were quarantined and examined for signs of
1885 Robert Koch identifies bacterium
1900 Waldemar Haffkine develops vaccine
o What is plague?
Plague is the repeated outbreaks through history in which there were huge losses of
It is a bacterial disease and mostly spread through bacterium, flea and rodents
Plagues of Europe end after 1679
In 18th and 19th centuries the pilgrimage industry grew rapidly in South
Asia. The development of transportation infrastructure: roads, railways –
eased the expansion of pilgrimage.
In 1896 plague appeared in South Asia in epidemic form, and there was
increasing international pressure on the Government of India to contain
and control it. Sanitary workers, police, railway staff, and many others
were deployed to detect cases, contain them and treat them.
Plague resurfaces in mid-19th century in central Asia and spreads world-wide
Pilgrimage industry of South Asia growing rapidly at this time
1896 plague epidemic in South Asia pressure on Gov. of India to contain it,
particularly at places of pilgrimage
o What is kala-azar?
Kala-azar is a disease spread by the bite of the female sandfly. Also known as
1880s: A threat to tea plantations in South Asia - became a source of concern for the
A 1917 case of cutaneous leishmaniasis in the Middle East, known then locally
as "Jericho Buttons" for the frequency of cases near the ancient city of Jericho
Kala-azar occurred as both an endemic and an epidemic disease in India
during the colonial period.
o What is tropical medicine?
1898 Patrick Manson published the text that founds the field: 'Tropical Diseases'.
In 1899 he founded the London School of Tropical Medicine.
In 1924 it was renamed as The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
A late 19th century construction
To protect the colonial governors and exploiters
To protect the “tropical” subjects and exploited
Manson: [tropical medicine includes] "certain cosmopolitan diseases,
such as leprosy and plague...which properly speaking do not depend in
any very special way, or necessarily, on climatic conditions. They have
been practically ousted from Europe and the temperate parts of America
by the spread of civilization, and the improved hygiene that has followed