Accepted paper:

A Healthy Sense of Reality: Native Medical Practitioners' Articulations of Entitlement and Responsibility in Colonial Vanuatu

Authors:

Alexandra Widmer (York University)

Paper short abstract:

Through the entitlements to health that Native Medical Practitioners expressed in colonial Vanuatu, I analyze how bio-political forms of citizenship operate through contesting proper interpretations of reality and how sensory experiences index forms of subjectivity as modern or traditional.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will examine how Native Medical Practitioners (NMP's) in colonial Vanuatu used their positions to express their own rights and entitlements to fair treatment from the British-French Condominium. In their reports to the colonial authorities, the NMP's also emphasized that ni-Vanuatu were entitled to better living conditions and adequate health care. Furthermore, the NMP's wrote, ni-Vanuatu were intelligent people capable of positive change to improve their lives. Still, throughout their correspondence, the NMP's expressed frustration at the persistence of 'fatalism' and 'belief in sorcery' that kept their would-be patients from both accepting biomedicine and taking control of their lives. As agents in the colonial project, NMP's were part of colonial medical schemes explicitly aimed at bringing people into centralized forms of state governance. Biomedicine was thus used in the creation of bio-political forms of governance and self governing subjects. In this paper, I examine the relevance of 'Biological citizenship' as a way of relating notions of belonging and entitlement through the articulation and experience of embodied claims to health. In particular, I analyze how bio-political forms of citizenship operate through contesting proper interpretations of reality and how sensory experiences (of illness caused by sorcery or virus) index forms of subjectivity and entitlements.

panel P13
Senses and citizenships: contestations over national and global identities, resources, and forms of belonging