Leprosy in Samoa 1890 to 1922: Race, Colonial Politics and Disempowerment
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis investigates the colonial organisation of leprosy care in Samoa from 1890 to 1922. It begins with the examination of the nineteenth century “Three Power” governments of Germany, United States of America and Great Britain over Samoa, and moves on to a study of German rule beginning in 1900 and New Zealand administration from 1914. It analyses colonial politics alongside the medical changes and exchanges of ideas about race, health and disease which dominated the direction of leprosy care in Samoa. During these thirty two years of European influence and control over Samoan affairs, the leprosy sufferer became confined and restricted, to some extent a result of international pressure for the segregation of leprosy sufferers, and a consequence of a public and medical push for isolation and confinement. Beginning in the German period, leprosy care involved medical and missionary alliances, evidence of a shift in the perception of leprosy as a shared responsibility, rather than exclusively a state one. This thesis examines the isolation policies carried out through the network of authorities involved in the organisation of leprosy care. It analyses the medical understanding of leprosy and the leprosy sufferer and traces the impact of these ideas on the leprosy policies implemented in Samoa, particularly the development and establishment of the first leprosy station in the village of Falefa which was later moved to the island of Nu’utele. The iii story of leprosy care in Samoa occurred at a time of decreasing Samoan authority, an indication of not only a disempowered leprosy sufferer but also of a largely disempowered Samoan people.