Leprosy and Stigma in the South Pacific

A Region-by-Region History with First Person Accounts


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About the Book

The long-lasting effects of leprosy are still evident in various parts of the world. This book details the personal experiences of people in Fiji, New Caledonia, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu, the majority of whom contracted leprosy as children. It recounts how the victims were subject to prolonged isolation in various leprosaria as the first effective cure for leprosy only became available after 1949. Oral histories are utilized and verbatim extracts demonstrate the level of stigma experienced by these young people. Topics covered include the exact nature of the diagnosis, removal from one’s family, the experience of isolation, and the reaction of family and villages upon the individual’s return to community life.

About the Author(s)

Dorothy McMenamin lectures on various aspects of Indian history, particularly modern South Asian history, through the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. She has published broadly in journals on topics relating to marginalized communities. This is her second book.

Bibliographic Details

Dorothy McMenamin
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 234
Bibliographic Info: 32 photos, 34 maps, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2011
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6323-7
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8591-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      v
Abbreviations and Terms      vii
Preface      1
Introduction      3
The Disease and Its Brief History      5
Historiography      9
Brief History of Leprosy Stigma      12
Missions and Stigma      15
Myth of Stigma and Self- Stigma      16
Growth of Leprosaria and Missionary Involvement      17
Other Leprosaria      19
The Interviews      25

1. Community Through Adversity—New Zealand to Fiji      31
Patrick J. Twomey: Early Encounters with Leprosy      31
Formation of a Charitable Trust in New Zealand      35
LTB/PLF and Leprosy Sufferers in the South Pacific Region      38
Leprosy in Fiji: Historical Background      40
Early Accounts of Leprosy      41
Establishment of the Leprosarium at Beqa      42
Establishment of the Leprosarium at Makogai      43
Conditions at Makogai and the SMSM      45
Sulphone Treatment and Changing Times      50
St. Elizabeth Leprosy Home, Suva      52
P.J. Twomey Memorial Hospital, Tamavua, Suva      53
Testimonies of Interviewees at Twomey Hospital      54
Testimonies of Interviewees Living in Their Own Homes      67

2. Former Penitentiaries as Leprosaria—New Caledonia      73
Historical Background      73
Early Reports and Treatment of Leprosy      74
Involvement of Religious Orders in Care at Belep and Ducos      75
Conditions at Ducos Leprosarium to the Late 1960s      77
The LTB and Other Charitable Involvement at Ducos      81
Leprosy on the Island and at Ducos Since the Late 1960s      83
Continuing SMSM Involvement      91

3. Rise and Demise of Stigma—Samoa      98
Historical Background      98
Early Incidence of Leprosy and Attitudes Toward the Disease      99
Leprosaria at Alia and Nu’utele      101
Removal of Leprosy Sufferers to Makogai, Fiji      103
Samoan Experiences at Makogai and Reintegration Back Home      109
Leprosy Treatment in Samoa Since the Late 1950s      113
PLF Assistance in Samoa      118

4. The Loneliness of Isolation—Tonga      124
Historical Background      124
Early Incidence of Leprosy      127
Fale’ofa Leprosy Clinic at Ngu Hospital, Vava’u      128
Tongan Experiences at Makogai Leprosarium      131
Village of Longomapu, Vava’u      141
Experience of Isolation at Fale’ofa      146
Leprosy Experiences Without Isolation      148

5. The Benefits of Leprosaria—Vanuatu      155
Historical Background      155
Earliest Accounts of Leprosy      157
Melanesian Mission and Establishment of Leprosarium at Lolowai      159
Conditions at St. Barnabas Leprosarium, Lolowai      167
Leaving Lolowai      173
Supporting Accounts of Conditions at Lolowai Leprosarium      174
Incidence of Leprosy and PLF Assistance      176
Testimonies of Leprosy Sufferers      179
Memories of Lolowai      180
Experiences Living at Home with Leprosy      185

Conclusion      191
Minimal Biblical and Missionary Causes of Stigma      192
Leprosaria and Stigma      193
Stigma and Self- Stigma      196
Appendix: The Betty Pyatt Letter      199
Chapter Notes      203
Bibliography      215
Index      221

Book Reviews & Awards

“This book is both moving and very useful to researchers”—International Journal of Environmental Studies.