Thursday, June 19, 2014

Abstract 2014 Sudip Saha

Sudip Saha, Department of History, North-Eastern Hill University


Tropical Medicine and Colonial Enclave: Issues of Inequality in Assam Valley Tea Plantation

The concept of inequality has gained wide acceptance in the historical understanding of colonial development today. To locate the area of inequalities, the focus of attention is turned to major sites of colonial enclaves, and plantation has been considered as one of the thrust area wherein the uneven relationship between the capitalist practices of treating labourers as a mode of commodity and the inclusive application of tropical medicine (concerning itself with the contagions of the tropics) as a philanthropic model is mostly visible. The reason for selecting the plantation as an applied field of medicine was due to the economic interest of colonialism where a substantial number of labourers were involved in the production processes and their heath were often vulnerable because of the crucial existence of tropical diseases. But in course of time, the field of medicine became rhetorical because of the controversies surrounding the formulation and implementation of health policies and medicine and health care eventually began to be treated as agencies through which colonialism actually progressed further. As a result, the health system devised by the planters and the medical establishments, who projected themselves as ‘providers and protectors’ of the workers, mirrored a class structure through control over the bodies of the workers, stratification of the residential places and health institutions within the plantation. To put the matter in simple terms, this paper makes an attempt to explore the dual character of tropical medicine and the practices of health inequalities in the tea plantations of Assam Valley, a frontier enclave situated in the north-eastern part of colonial India, considering the questions of internal migration of labourers, the system of indentureship in recruiting labour and the estate sanitation within the plantations. In addition, an attempt will also be made throughout the entire paper to show how health and hygiene was used as a means of class exploitation among the plantation workers. 

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