Dominik Merdes

Department for the History of Pharmacy and Science, Technische Universität Braunschweig

Medical Missions Between Social Medicine and Parasitology
Flukes, Worm Eggs, and Mites in Discourses and Practices of Tropical Medicine in Southern China and Taiwan (1860s – 1910s)

‘Allopathy’, ‘biomedicine’, or ‘scientific medicine’ are among the labels used to name a type of medical assemblage that seems to have gained hegemony as well as state support in almost every corner of the capitalised world. The history of the spread of allopathy in Southern China and Taiwan, promoted by (medical) missionaries, physicians of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, and Japanese colonial officials, among others, exemplifies that allopathy is less a self-contained medical system than a heterogeneous meshwork that produces knowledge in an intricate, fractured manner. In my project, I will focus on two subjects that were enmeshed both in imperial policies and epistemic rearrangements, namely parasitology and medical practices, that centre around the concept of ‘social medicine’. The analysis will be based on the assumption of two poles that pull medicine in one or the other direction—a social, deterritorializing pole and an othering, defining pole. Referring to the philosophers Giles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, these poles are conceived of as a continuum that constitutes research-processes as well as bears the potential to reinforce or to undermine restricting social structures. How can missionary hospitals of English Presbyterians or the colonial medical policies of Goto Shinpei be situated in this field? What are the connections between Japanese colonial medicine and Rudolf Virchow’s Sozialmedizin that disrupted disease categories and disciplinary boundaries while strengthening the conceptions of the social in biological terms and the role of the state at the same time? Medical Missions Between Social Medicine and Parasitology explores parasitological discourses—e.g. that of paragonimiasis or schistosomiasis—that fed on knowledge produced in Southern China/Taiwan, the role of German imperial policies, and the embeddedness of these agents in a wider imperial assemblage.

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