The Separating Sickness: The Role of Stigma, Race, and Power in the Dislocation of Patients with Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) to Moloka’i Hawaii

Jeanne Harrah-Johnson (Independent, retired)

Leprosy was the name non-natives used for the disease discussed in this paper; native Hawaiians called it “The Separating Sickness”. Hawaiians are connected through birth, ancestry, and place where the emphasis is on the surrounding natural environment. Traditional Hawaiians removed from these elements, as were the Kalaupapa (Moloka'i, Hawaii) patients, were disconnected suddenly from their world view and ‘larger creation.’ Because their own personal identity was situated within the sphere of living and deceased family, and geography, after being relocated many felt they’d lost their self-identity and all of their community and connectedness. “The Separating Sickness” is a powerful and deeply sad concept. Its meaning goes beyond mere words. Kalaupapa’s people were forced from all that was familiar, safe, nurturing, and sacred.

Part of 03-14 Conceptions of Health, Illness, and Medicine, Thursday, November 02, 2:30 pm–4:30 pm