Bioinsecurities: Disease Interventions, Empire, and the Government of Species
“An Atmosphere of Leprosy”: Hansen’s Disease, the Dependent Body, and the Transoceanic Politics of Hawaiian Annexation
2016. "“An Atmosphere of Leprosy”: Hansen’s Disease, the Dependent Body, and the Transoceanic Politics of Hawaiian Annexation", Bioinsecurities: Disease Interventions, Empire, and the Government of Species, Neel Ahuja
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This chapter argues that the U.S. occupation and annexation of Hawai‘i shaped a public discourse of Hawaiian dependency associating Kānaka Maoli (native Hawaiians) with moral and biological susceptibility to Hansen’s disease, commonly known as leprosy. While the eroticized discourse surrounding Hansen’s disease—evident in medical photography, epidemiological reporting, and literary texts—intensified the quarantine regime established at the Moloka‘i settlements, it also invigorated new patient activisms and other challenges to the colonial regime on the islands. Contrary to some political theories suggesting that the carceral structures of camps reveal the foundational violence of the state as the basis of politics, the chapter argues that the government of species linked structures of repressive medical power to liberal practices of medical reform. Carceral settings for segregating Hansen’s patients reveal both logics of sovereign exclusion and emergent potentials for the nascent security state to align itself with liberal humanitarianism.