While several European naturalists, doctors travelled to tropical colonies to discover indigenous flora and fauna of medicinal value, their movement also enabled the formation of medical nexuses through various trade routes; the latter provided a cogent medium through which the collected knowledge could be re-located within the European metropoles. Placed in the context of medical humanities, these movements have opened an array of possibilities to study, analyse and recover the medical pasts of indigenous and colonial societies. The genre of travel writing preceded by the production and proliferation of travel texts by literate individuals saw the accumulation of data gathered by travellers during the 18th and 19th centuries. These writings, no doubt, revealed ideas of colonial and expansionist policies as well as imperial prowess which could vindicate colonial expansion and territorial acquisitions.
Travel writings in the form of various handwritten notes, descriptions, reference to indigenous healers and sketches depicting medical encounters as written texts included reference to indigenous medical practice, cures, medicines, disease and illnesses and various interpretations of indigenous medicine, healers vis-à-vis their western counterpart. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in particular, these explicated the rhetoric of colonialism and its expanse in the colonised communities. Travel narratives of physicians also reveal their first hand experience with slaves, slavery and the process of enslavement including encounters, resistance, medical inspections, illness, while also including medical treatment provided thereof. The creation of a new discourse on racism and inequality also opened up issues of power over the discourse of slavery and slave narratives.
The proposed volume will examine modalities of disease causation, explanation and their trajectory as a result of interaction with colonial communities in colonized settings around the world. As trained doctors, these male individuals, of European descent often engaged indigenous communities via interpreters or as observers, in order to obtain information about indigenous medical practices, treatment of disease, the relationship between disease and death, sin and sicknesses. We, therefore, seek to produce a collection that traces the “hidden” medical histories of colonized communities derived and gleaned from travel texts, which will enable an understanding of the trajectory of indigenous medical pasts and how they were shaped and re-defined as a result. Understanding the contributions of African and European doctors in the creation of a pharmaceutical industry, natural history and surgical enhancements is an important aspect of this trajectory.
Chapter contributions will focus on the following themes, but not limited to these:
- Historiography, travel writing, medicine and disease studies
- Travelogues and the social (re)construction of medical pasts
- Travel scientists, doctors and biographies
- Indigenous medicine and healing practices in Travelogues
- Medical travel expeditions
- Women writers, gender and medicine
- Travel texts, epidemics/disease and indigenous communities
- Scientific institutions as sponsors of colonial expeditions
- Slave narratives and black travel writing
- Medicine and knowledge in the slave trade
Interested scholars may please send an abstract of 250 words with relevant keywords, institutional affiliation and brief biography to Prof. Poonam Bala (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Prof. Russel Viljoen (email@example.com) by 31 May 2023. Completed draft chapter submissions of 7500 words should be submitted latest by 31 October 2023.