Leprosy in Eastern Nigeria and the social history of colonial skin.
- Publisher: British Leprosy Relief Assoc
: To the historian, the 'historical' experience of leprosy control is not simply a backdrop to contemporary patterns or problems in disease control. The control of leprosy has been enacted in different ways in localities, territories and states across the world. The specific clinical, political, and institutional choices made in leprosy control have been highly significant in shaping attitudes and approaches to leprosy. The term stigma has a history of usage, contention and re-definition. Stigma, then, is a product of its intersecting social, economic, and medical contexts. In order to capture the degree to which stigma associated with leprosy has mutated and changed over time, this article concerns itself specifically with the colonial experience of leprosy, with a focus on the formerly leprosy-endemic area of southeastern Nigeria (known as the Eastern Region, or Eastern Nigeria) in the last quarter century of colonial rule ending in 1960. The article examines how leprosy was presented, identifying some of the forms in which ideas of stigma and taint with respect to leprosy were communicated. It goes on to examine how leprosy was encountered as a medical problem in Eastern Nigeria, placing leprosy in the context of skin diseases most commonly encountered by colonial medical services. It concludes by demonstrating how leprosy was understood, looking briefly at local and biomedical means of identifying and combating these diseases, and the meanings of these diseases in the rapidly changing contexts of mid- and late-colonial rule and the onset of Nigerian Independence in 1960.<br/>
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