Capturing Leprosy: The Medical Gaze in America’s Pacific Empire


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars


Ethnic Studies


For residence at the Huntington Library during academic year 2014-2015


"Capturing Leprosy" investigates medical photography of leprosy (Hansen’s disease) and its critical role in the legal, medical, and sexual management of US colonial subjects from the late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century. Centered on Hawai‘i and the Philippines, US colonial possessions that administered leprosy settlements, this project examines how photography operated as a mode of scientific experimentation that brought indigenous and immigrant populations from the Pacific into visibility as potential pathogens. In its most expansive sense, it considers how racial difference and disease were constituted through visual culture. Its second objective is to theorize patient-centered visual paradigms of disability and wellness, utilizing the visual practices of exiled leprosarium patients. Bridging history of medicine, visual studies, and bioethics, it further assesses how decolonizing principles are reshaping bioethics and clinical training at the site of a former leprosy settlement.