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Science, Technology & Society pres.

STS Speaker. The Sentimental Body: Medical Humanitarianism and the Late Colonial Public in Indonesia

Kevin Ko, U-M History

This talk examines the role of medical humanitarianism in formations and fantasies of the native public in late colonial Indonesia. It looks at a particular institution that stood at the vanguard of humanitarian care in the late colonial period: the missionary clinic. Missionary medical care proved to be a rallying point among Dutch colonial and metropolitan citizens who praised it as a form of humanitarian care and colonial benevolence. In recognizing this celebration of medical humanitarianism as a response to growing anxieties over the nature and direction of the native mass public, this talk pursues a set of interrelated questions: How and why did missionary clinics and hospitals gain such broad colonial appeal? And what sort of native biological, political, and expressive bodies and publics did humanitarian care promise to create? In exploring these questions, this talk will place medicine, care, the native body, and the native public more centrally in our understanding of the politics and ethics of the self-proclaimed Ethical (Ethische) Period of Dutch colonialism (1900-1942) in Indonesia. It will then end by briefly considering Muslim responses to missionary humanitarian care starting in the 1920s.

Biosketch: Kevin Ko is a postdoctoral scholar in the Michigan Society of Fellows and an assistant professor in the Department of History. He specializes in modern Southeast Asian history with particular interests in medicine, religion, the body, and the public sphere in late colonial Indonesia. He is at work on a book project that examines the role of health, medicine, and the body in Christian and Muslim reform movements in late colonial Indonesia.
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