Imperial Contagions complicates common historical narratives portraying a straightforward shift from older, enclavist models of colonial medicine to newer pursuits of prevention and treatment among indigenous populations and European residents. In a series of essays, the volume shows colonial medicine was not a homogeneous, "on the ground" phenomenon but rather a practice rife with tensions and contradictions. Indigenous elites contested and appropriated Western medical knowledge and practices for their own purposes, while colonial policies contained contradictory and cross-cutting impulses. Contributors ultimately challenge the long-standing belief that colonial regimes uniformly regulated indigenous bodies and that colonial medicine served as a "tool of empire."
Robert Peckham is co-director of the Centre for the Humanities and Medicine and an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Hong Kong.
David M. Pomfret is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Hong Kong.
"This substantial collection greatly enriches our understanding of medicine, disease, and policy in colonial Asia. The contributors, from a range of disciplines, grapple fruitfully with questions surrounding medical space and the shift from enclavism to public health. In doing so, they make important theoretical and empirical contributions to medical and imperial history." — David Arnold, author of Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India