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Suriname under Dutch rule, 1750– 1950

Explaining how leprosy was considered in various historical settings by referring to categories of uncleanliness in antiquity, is problematic. The book historicizes how leprosy has been framed and addressed. It investigates the history of leprosy in Suriname, a plantation society where the vast majority of the population consisted of imported slaves from Africa. The relationship between the modern stigmatization and exclusion of people affected with leprosy, and the political tensions and racial fears originating in colonial slave society, exerting their influence until after the decolonization up to the present day. The book explores leprosy management on the black side of the medical market in the age of slavery as contrasted with the white side. The difference in perspectives on leprosy between African slaves and European masters contributed to the development of the 'Great Confinement' policies, and leprosy sufferers were sent to the Batavia leprosy asylum. Dutch debates about leprosy took place when the threat of a 'return' of leprosy to the Netherlands appeared to materialise. A symbiotic alliance for leprosy care that had formed between the colonial state and the Catholics earlier in the nineteenth century was renegotiated within the transforming landscape of Surinamese society to incorporate Protestants as well. By 1935, Dutch colonial medicine had dammed the growing danger of leprosy by using the modern policies of detection and treatment. Dutch doctors and public health officials tried to come to grips with the Afro-Surinamese belief in treef and its influence on the execution of public health policies.

Stephen Snelders

and 1863. Only one of the eleven plantations had records for the whole period, and on this plantation there were no infected slaves at all. For all examined plantations the records show that a total of twelve slaves 61 A policy of ‘Great Confinement’, 1815–186361 were sent to Batavia, one, two, or three at a time.72 The impact of the ‘Great Confinementpolicy becomes clearer when comparing the total of 1,344 people diagnosed as infected over a period of thirty years with population figures. Before 1849, the figures are scant and not reliable. According to one

in Leprosy and colonialism
The Batavia leprosy asylum in the age of slavery
Stephen Snelders

93 4 ‘Battleground in the jungle’: the Batavia leprosy asylum in the age of slavery Leprosy sufferers detected under the ‘Great Confinementpolicies, and particularly those who were slaves, were sent to the Batavia leprosy asylum. By segregating them from the outside world, the perceived threat of a potential spread of their infection to the slave society, higher social groups, and even the Netherlands, was controlled. The geographically isolated leprosy asylum in the Suriname colony performed an essential role in colonial society. The asylum also established

in Leprosy and colonialism
Stephen Snelders

leprosy between African slaves and European masters contributed both to the development of the ‘Great Confinementpolicies (with an aim to countermand the perceived African fatalism and indifference) and to the undermining of these policies, since the slaves saw nothing to gain by observing or adhering to the policies. By viewing leprosy politics in the age of slavery from a bottom-​up perspective, the mismatch 89 Slaves and medicine: black perspectives89 between the rulers’ intentions and interventions and the needs and wishes of the ruled becomes visible. Notes 1

in Leprosy and colonialism
Suriname and the Netherlands, 1863– 1890
Stephen Snelders

continued. There are no figures available on the number of Committee examinations, but figures in the Colonial Reports show that although the population of Suriname as a whole increased, the population of Batavia decreased and remained stable at approximately a hundred from 1876 until the asylum closed in 1897. The detection and segregation apparatus of the colonial government was still functioning during this time, but with far less intensity than during the height of the ‘Great Confinementpolicies. Calling upon expertise from Suriname: the Bronbeek affair In the

in Leprosy and colonialism
Stephen Snelders

increase in the number of sufferers in the asylums, which continued until 1925. From 1926, the increase in sufferers became more pronounced (see Table 3 and Figure 3), and by the end of the 1920s the absolute figures reached those of the heyday of the ‘Great Confinementpolicies and rose above 400. By then the population had grown to almost 150,000, so the relative figures were still much lower than in the nineteenth century. Around 1900, policy makers and medical practitioners felt that leprosy detection was failing. In 1896, medical inspector Salomons told the

in Leprosy and colonialism