Catalog Home Page

'Our lives are bad but our luck is good': A Social History of Leprosy in Singapore

Seng, L.K. (2008) 'Our lives are bad but our luck is good': A Social History of Leprosy in Singapore. Social History of Medicine, 21 (2). pp. 291-309.

Link to Published Version:
*Subscription may be required


This paper examines the social history of individuals with leprosy living in Singapore under the law of compulsory segregation. Using official sources and oral history interviews, the paper explores both the colonial and postcolonial states' motivations behind the policy and its effects on leprosy sufferers and the public at large in a cosmopolitan, progressive country. First, by tracing the continuity of the colonial policy into the postcolonial period, segregation, it is argued, stemmed not only from British anxieties towards the Asian 'races', which appeared to be the case in the earlier era, but from a deeper 'high modernist' resolve, shared by both the British and the postcolonial People's Action Party governments, to mould individuals into model subjects and citizens using the principles and techniques of modern science and administration. This paper also presents patient experiences of and responses to segregation and the social stigma against leprosy. It contends that official social control over the leprosarium was never completely hegemonic but was continually contested, individually and collectively, and overtly and covertly, by the residents, giving form in the long run to semi-autonomous ways of everyday life in the institution.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Asia Research Centre
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Copyright: © The Author 2008.
Item Control Page Item Control Page