Date of Award

8-2005

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Anthropology

Major Professor

Faye V. Harrison

Committee Members

Gerald Schroedl, Michael H. Logan, Paula Carney

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to document the ethnohistory of the leprosarium Hansen Home and to examine the local knowledge ofleprosy in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. Kittitians often responded to questions about leprosy in 2000 with the statement "it's not catching." In 2002, the research goal was to address leprosy from a Kittitian vantage point. Through the lens of anthropological inquiry, archival materials were examined and a variety of stories were gathered about Hansen Home and the local knowledge of leprosy. The latter task was accomplished with ethnographic techniques, particularly semi-structured interviews. The accounts collected were multilayered, exposing culturally significant aspects of identity construction and blame assignment. As the local knowledge of leprosy was revealed, a clearer interpretation of this contagion was attained. A consistent trend has been the Othering of leprosy; assigning blame to the Other for bringing leprosy to St. Kitts and more specifically to Sandy Point. Leprosy is currently defined in the context of St. Kitts as not contagious. This is a reflection of Kittitians' ability to cope with leprosy and is a testament to the success of the public health care delivery agenda set in St. Kitts and Nevis. Despite their efforts to eradicate the disease, the legacy of leprosy still affects many people today. This thesis describes the medical pluralism of the local knowledge of leprosy, which is influenced by both biomedical and ethnomedical knowledge. Furthermore, this thesis describes life for the person with leprosy who lived on both the inside and outside of Hansen Home. It also describes a gradual shift in understanding contagion in St. Kitts, from a point of highly contagious to an understanding of not contagious.

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