Call for Panelists: The Tropical City as Diseased: Races, Migrants and Subalterns in Southeast Asia

Heong Hong POR's picture
May 31, 2017
Subject Fields: 
History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Labor History / Studies, Social History / Studies, Southeast Asian History / Studies, Urban History / Studies

Hi all, Dr Loh Kah Seng, social historian and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at James Cook University and Por Heong Hong, Research Fellow at University of Malaya, jointly invite you to submit an abstract for the following panel:


Panel title: The Tropical City as Diseased: Races, Migrants and Subalterns in Southeast Asia

For conference: "Living Cities: Tropical Imaginaries", 6-9 September, 2017, Singapore.


Panel Abstract:

This session considers an influential trope on Southeast Asian cities: colonial imaginaries of the backward, insanitary and disorderly urban dwellers – sometimes the natives but more frequently the immigrants. These imaginaries were to shape not only Western understandings of tropical disease and the emerging field of tropical medicine in the 19th century. They also profoundly influenced both the colonial regimes’ perspectives of the unruly nature of the populations they governed – who had to be tamed into classifiable races – and the dark, wild and dangerous spaces of Southeast Asia’s primate cities – whose proliferation had to be stopped and reversed. Ultimately the imaginaries would define the identity and role of the ruling regimes in the region, most impactfully in relation to their civilising projects and missions in the early 20th century. At the same time, colonial attempts to govern and transform polluted minds and bodies were fraught and difficult, partly being contradictory and under-resourced, and also often frustrated by tactics of evasion and passive resistance from the urban subalterns. Above all, Southeast Asia’s socio-cultural diversity and its openness to trade and migrants also introduced or sustained countervailing ideas about health, disease and treatment, which in complex ways interacted with, subverted or even amalgamated with those of Western biomedicine.

Deadline: 31 May 2017. Length of abstract: 200 words. You may click here  for more details about the conference. Selected papers may be revised and published in a forthcoming issue of eTropic journal .


Keywords: tropical medicine, migrants, subalterns, social history, Southeast Asia

Contact Info: 

This panel is for an upcoming multidisciplinary conference titled "Living Cities: Tropical Imaginaries", to be held from 6 to 9 September, 2017, in Singapore. Please send your 200-word abstract to Dr Por Heong Hong at by 31 May 2017. 

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