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From Prussia to China: Japanese Colonial Medicine and Gotō Shinpei’s Combination of Medical Police and Local Self-Administration

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 May 2012

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Recent historical investigation into the rise of ‘biopolitical modernity’ in China has shed some surprising light. While it was long thought that British public health initiatives entered China via Hong Kong, the recent work of Ruth Rogaski, Philippe Chemouilli and others has established that it was actually early Japanese colonialism that played the crucial role. It was the Meiji Empire's hygiene reform projects in Taiwan and Manchuria that provided the model for Republican China. Curiously overlooked by medical historians has been one of the major early works of Japanese public health that directly inspired and guided this colonial medical enterprise. This was that of the Japanese health reformer and colonial officer, Gotō Shinpei (1857–1929), and it was undertaken in Munich as a doctoral thesis under the supervision of Max von Pettenkofer. In this article, I focus on the way in which Shinpei dealt in his thesis with the relations between centralisation and local self-administration as one of the key issues facing hygienic modernisation and colonial biopolitical control.

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2011. Published by Cambridge University Press

References

1 Ruth Rogaski, Hygienic Modernity, Meaning of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004).

2 Philippe Chemouilli, ‘Le Choléra et la Naissance de la Santé Publique Dans le Japon de Meiji’; Médecine/Sciences, 20 (2004) 236–40.

3 Shiyung Liu, ‘The Ripples of Rivalry: The Spread of Modern Medicine from Japan to its Colonies’, East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal, 2 (2008) 47–71.

4 Cheng-yi Huang, ‘Enacting the “Incomprehensible China”: Modern European Jurisprudence and the Japanese Reconstruction of Qing Political Law’, Law & Social Inquiry, 33, 4 (2008), 955–1001.

5 Chin Hsien-Yu, ‘Colonial Medical Police and Postcolonial Medical Surveillance Systems in Taiwan, 1895–1950s’, Osiris, 2nd Series, 13 (1998), 326–38.

6 Ibid., 329.

7 Carl F. Nathan, Plague Prevention and Politics in Manchuria 1910–1931 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard East Asian Monographs, 1967).

8 Gotō Shinpei [Gotoh Shimpei], ‘Vergleichende Darstellung der Medizinalpolizei und Medizinalverwaltung in Japan und anderen Staaten’ (unpublished MD thesis: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, 1891).

9 Ibid., 13.

10 Ibid., 1.

11 Ibid., 8.

12 Ibid., 30.

13 Ibid., 9.

14 For example, Philippe Chemouilli, op. cit. (note 2).

15 This belief was exemplified in Gotō’s infamous but little understood diatribe on the futility of trying to transplant the eye structure of a flatfish into a sea bream.

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