Pathogens from the Pulpit: Missionary Perceptions of Disease in Colonial Korea (1910-1940)
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This thesis examines how Western missionaries in colonial Korea (1910-1945) perceived disease among the Korean populace. Notably, missionaries in their accounts focused on two diseases, leprosy and tuberculosis. Building on Western discourses of disease, missionaries perceived leprosy in Korea both in heavily Christian terms as a sign of original sin, and a physical manifestation of the region’s tropical primitivism. Meanwhile, they conceived tuberculosis as a disease of modernity that threatened to reduce the productivity of the mission establishment. Interestingly, although the great influenza pandemic of the late 1910s stands out in the history of medicine as one of the deadliest demographical disasters of the 20th century (including in Korea), missionaries did not concern themselves in responding to the outbreak. More fundamentally, this thesis seeks to document how perceptions of disease—both historical and contemporary—remain prefabricated based on a number of important social, political, cultural, religious, and historical factors that ultimately determine how human beings respond to microscopic, invisible pathogens.
CitationKo, Alan (2019). Pathogens from the Pulpit: Missionary Perceptions of Disease in Colonial Korea (1910-1940). Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18331.
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Rights for Collection: Undergraduate Honors Theses and Student papers