Sex and Control

Sex and Control: Venereal Disease, Colonial Physicians, and Indigenous Agency in German Colonialism, 1884-1914

Daniel J. Walther
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 198
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qd2dn
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Sex and Control
    Book Description:

    In responding to the perceived threat posed by venereal diseases in Germany's colonies, doctors took a biopolitical approach that employed medical and bourgeois discourses of modernization, health, productivity, and morality. Their goal was to change the behavior of targeted groups, or at least to isolate infected individuals from the healthy population. However, the Africans, Pacific Islanders, and Asians they administered to were not passive recipients of these strategies. Rather, their behavior strongly influenced the efficacy and nature of these public health measures. While an apparent degree of compliance was achieved, over time physicians increasingly relied on disciplinary measures beyond what was possible in Germany in order to enforce their policies. Ultimately, through their discourses and actions they contributed to the justification for and the maintenance of German colonialism.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-592-9
    Subjects: Political Science, Health Sciences, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Sex and its regulation occupied a central position in the German colonial enterprise; they permeated the political, social, economic, and cultural life of the colonies. As various scholars have already demonstrated,¹ formal sexual relationships between the races and the progeny from such encounters challenged the colonial order and the future of the colonies as German possessions, while responses to these threats strengthened the gender and racial hierarchy by banning mix marriages and relegating off spring to a lower racial status. The aim of these policies was not to prevent sexual relations between whites and non-Europeans. Rather, they attempted to redirect...

  6. PART I Male Sexuality and Prostitution in the Overseas Territories
    • Chapter 1 Doctors, Prostitution, and Venereal Disease in Germany
      (pp. 13-23)

      By the last decades of the nineteenth century and in the early years of the twentieth, venereal diseases appeared to be on the rise in Germany. According to hospital records, between 1877 and 1909 the number of cases for gonorrhea had risen by 182 percent and for syphilis by 19 percent throughout the German Empire. Despite contemporary criticisms of the statistics, there was nonetheless a general consensus among experts that VD appeared to be on the rise. In fact, some physicians even argued that the figures were probably higher. This rise was accompanied by an increase in prostitution. Though prostitution...

    • Chapter 2 Male Colonial Sexuality
      (pp. 24-34)

      The acquisition of overseas territories provided German men with increased opportunities to quench their desire not only for land, freedom, and adventure,¹ but also for sexual gratification. Edward Said pointed out that “the Orient was a place where one could look for sexual experience unobtainable in Europe.”² Similarly, Ronald Hyam, writing about the British Empire, wrote that “empire unquestionably gave them an enlarged field of opportunity. Greater space and privacy were often available; inhibitions relaxed. European standards might be held irrelevant. Abstinence was represented as unhealthy in a hot climate. Boredom could constitute an irresistible imperative.”³ The circumstances in the...

    • Chapter 3 Prostitution in Germany’s Colonies
      (pp. 35-50)

      As several scholars have already demonstrated, the introduction of European rule and the concomitant changes to the local economies opened up new possibilities for indigenous women to earn an income. Indeed, the disruption of preexisting economies, the proletarianization of indigenous societies, and the introduction of migrant labor either provided women with opportunities to attain financial independence or required them to support their families or themselves. One of the easiest ways to earn money was through prostitution, especially due to the presence of a disproportionately large number of single men.¹ And, either on their own volition or forced by family members,...

  7. PART II Venereal Disease in the Colonial Context
    • Chapter 4 The Threat of Venereal Disease
      (pp. 53-57)

      Within the context of colonial public health, numerous diseases posed a serious threat to the establishment and maintenance of German control over its colonial possessions, such as malaria and sleeping sickness.¹ However, none was perceived to be as universally threatening as venereal diseases to the foundations of German colonialism. Across all the colonies and throughout the period of German rule, colonial doctors repeatedly spoke of how widespread and dangerous VD was. For instance, Dr. Schwabe noted that in the mid-1890s “there is not a disease … that has the same significance as syphilis” among the native population on Jaluit in...

    • Chapter 5 Assessing the Threat Statistically
      (pp. 58-74)

      Concerns about the spread of venereal diseases were based largely on the statistical data collected by colonial doctors. As in Germany, statistics became a means of surveillance that was used to evaluate the health of the colonies and to identify threats to it. The collection of this data was part of the larger phenomenon of gathering statistical information to assess the efficacy of German colonialism. However, the compiling of data also provided “an instrument for regulating and transforming” colonial populations, especially through the act of classification.¹ One of the primary vehicles for this was the annual reports for each colony....

    • Chapter 6 Racial Categories, Venereal Disease, and the Colonial Order
      (pp. 75-88)

      While medical reports certainly provided a statistical overview of the health (or actually disease) situation in the different territories, they also typologized patients both as “ill” and as a racial category—primarily “European” or “colored,” or, in the Pacific, as “Chinese” as well. As other scholars have demonstrated,¹ the apparently simple act of recording and categorizing the non-Europeans contributed toward their integration into German physicians’ understanding of the colonial order, and hence into the German colonial hierarchy. Indeed, according to the scholar Talal Asad, “through statistics … Western representations of modern (i.e., Western) society … are offered, adopted, adapted, and...

  8. PART III Fighting Venereal Disease in the Colonies
    • Chapter 7 Preventative Measures
      (pp. 91-95)

      As Megan Vaughan pointed out in her study of colonial Nyasaland, medical discourse “could be used to pathologize the African as a social being, and to represent difference in such a way as would provide a clear rational for domination to those who wished to find it … [and] to satisfy the liberal conscience … which represented anything ‘medical’ as an act of benevolence, and even of salvation.”¹ In Germany’s territories, physicians cast those who did not conform to middle-class notions of productivity and health as medical and racial “others.” This objectification justified doctors’ actions to bring about the subjectification...

    • Chapter 8 Disciplining the Body
      (pp. 96-103)

      Another way health officials tried to discipline the targeted groups was to introduce various surveillance strategies. The goal of these strategies was to bring about the compliance of these groups with practices that promoted the health of the colony. One method included the required examination for those segments of the population that stood under government control, such as military personnel, prostitutes, and non-European laborers. Those found infected were required to undergo mandatory treatment until cured. The surveillance of prostitutes was facilitated by the gradual introduction of a system of registration, the issuance of health cards, and the keeping of records....

    • Chapter 9 Treating the Body
      (pp. 104-113)

      In the diagnosis and treatment of infected individuals, colonial physicians relied heavily on scientific discoveries. Already by the end of the nineteenth century, they knew the causes of gonorrhea and ulcusmolle, and during the first decade of the twentieth century, scientists had found sources for syphilis and other related treponema. In addition, August Wassermann had developed a serological test for syphilis, albeit one that was not completely reliable.

      Nevertheless, there were still limitations to their knowledge. For example, doctors at the time were unsure exactly what the so-called six-day fever was. In the realm of VD, they also had limited...

    • Chapter 10 Assessing the Surveillance
      (pp. 114-120)

      Throughout the period of German colonial control, especially in the twentieth century, physicians reported and commented on the programs they implemented and their efficacy in their campaign to stop the spread of venereal diseases. They remarked on the effectiveness of certain policies, while simultaneously pointing out where work needed to be done. By the end of colonial rule, however, while they could point to a number of successes, overall they believed that they still had a lot of work to do.

      According to some reports, initially it appeared that the various surveillance and treatment measures to fight VD were having...

    • Chapter 11 Perceived Ongoing Challenges
      (pp. 121-131)

      While some German doctors agreed that progress was being made, others believed that venereal diseases continued to pose a threat. In fact, as in other European colonies¹ and even in Germany,² colonial physicians viewed the various measures pursued as insufficient because the diseases continued to spread and the number of infected ostensibly rose. For instance, even though Dr. Ziemann spoke of a decrease in venereal infections in 1908/09, he noted that African soldiers in Cameroon continued to become infected while traveling on patrols into the interior. He pointed out that then the infection would again be “transferred to the entire...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 132-135)

    Physicians in Germany and the colonies shared a desire to transform society according to their notions of health, prosperity, and morality. Within the context of the fight against venereal diseases, doctors in both settings tried to implement similar educational and surveillance measures in order to subjectify targeted groups or at least to mitigate the impact of noncompliance with prescribed measures. At times, the obstacles they faced were analogous, such as their struggle to supplant unscientific knowledge with scientifically based practices. In Germany, it was the campaign against “quackery,” in the colonies it was against both the “quackery” practiced by some...

  10. Appendix
    (pp. 136-162)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 163-178)
  12. Index
    (pp. 179-183)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 184-185)