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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:A sword of Empire? Medicine and colonialism in King William's Town, Xhosaland, 1856-1891
Author:Gordon, DavidISNI
Periodical:African Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
medical history
folk medicine
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Health and Nutrition
Abstract:This paper examines the early years of the King William's Town Hospital (in King William's Town, the frontier capital of the new colony called British Kaffraria (1847-1865), Xhosaland, South Africa) to show how colonial medicine could become part of the therapeutic world of the Xhosa without destroying their cultural identities and spreading colonial hegemony. At first the weak colonial State and the nature of precapitalist settler encroachment allowed for an exchange of medical ideas. Africans could accept the beneficial aspects of colonial medicine without conceding their central ideas about the nature of healing. Colonial medicine was also transformed as Dr John Patrick Fitzgerald, head of the Medical Department of British Kaffraria and Superintendent of Native Hospitals, began to accept and incorporate different African medical practices. Increasingly, however, little room was left for cultural interchange of any form. In the late 19th century Western medicine became rooted in the germ theory that Fitzgerald had always disdained. A 'progressive science', supported by a growing settler colonialism, emerged out of the new mining industries and came to taboo what had previously been useful so that it could carve out its own distinct 'modern' identity. African healers were denounced, funding for African hospitals was reduced, and African patients lost their ability to control and guide their therapeutic quest. Bibliogr., notes, ref.