What does the condition of tropical neurasthenia tell us about history of disease and colonialism? Executive Summary
The Western countries have established the world market during the first quarter of the twentieth century. At that time, the Europeans in the tropical colonies experienced a kind of nervous condition which was diagnosed as the tropical neurasthenia. It s not a psychosis or madness but according to Anna Crozier(2009), an ennui or loss of “edge” caused by the strains of tropical life, the hot climate the Westerners totally unfamiliar with. This essays generally introduces the description of tropical neurasthenia, such as the definition of tropical neurasthenia (how does it different from normal neurasthenia) and why the Westerners, or to say, civilized people have anxieties about climate. Finally, it draws a conclusion about what does the condition of tropical neurasthenia tell us about history of disease and colonialism.
2.1 What is tropical neurasthenia
To the author's knowledge, the tropical neurasthenia is a wide-range symptoms. During the first quarter of the twentieth century, the Europeans expanded their colonies around the world, and their Colonial Service employees experienced a kind of nervous condition called tropical neurasthenia. This irresistible nervousness is of a general physical debility physiological degeneration and even mental or moral deterioration might occur, which were caused directly by the tropical environment. Many people explained it as an expression of the anxieties of the colonial regime. Virtually, it can be regarded as a hybrid form, dependent not only upon the peculiarities of the colonial situation, but also descended from British and American clinical understandings of neurasthenia. Tropical neurasthenia placed greater emphasis on the sun as a causative factor and further delineated the racial hierarchies presumed by colonialism, but neither these environmental or racial components were at odds with the original non-colonial neurasthenic conceptions. Tropical neurasthenia was a disease of a specific culture. It suggests that the meaning of white male breakdown in the tropics was structured in relation to a specific colonial setting, even if these relations were usually disguised by mechanistic and, later, psychodynamic formalism. The same complaints or symptoms can suggest different diagnostic meanings in different cultures, so that what appears as a unique, culture-bound syndrome may be, on reflection, a culturally specific (and culturally effective) framing of a more general illness experience. In Manila, Nicolas Roosevelt (1926) wrote, "there is a disease called 'phillipinities' or forgetfulness which makes many people unable to racall common occurances within a few hours." 2.2 How tropical neurasthenia differs from normal neurasthenia According to conventional wisdom, neurasthenia is a novel and distinctive American disease syndrome characterized by what George M. Beard(1880) called a depletion of "nerve force". As Hugn W. Acton(1927) noted, the word neurasthenia "means nerve debility, and is characterised by a general feeling if ill health, which in turn is associated with introspectiveness, and a morbid that some disease is developing or will develop at a future date. It seems to appear as a result of overcivilization, the exclusive focus on brain work over a long-term stress at the expense of the body work or long-term emotional distress thus led a failure to develop physical force. Tropical neurasthenia was partially a context-dependent diagnosis. Nervousness could occur everywhere, but only when it occurs in the colonial settings can we called it tropical neurasthenia. Tropical neurasthenia adapted and extended discourses of colonialism andacclimatization. Tropical is used here in the sense of locality more than to characterize any special type of neurasthenia. It was not only the perceived role of the sun in bringing...
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