Kingdom of the Sick: A History of Leprosy and Japan

Volume 15, Issue 2

Susan Bums Kingdom of the Sick: A History of Leprosy and Japan covers the history of leprosy in Japan from the Middle Ages to the 1960s. The historical experience of "people affected by leprosy." a term including both patients and former patients, is a well-known example of how stigma and discrimination can be associated with disease. It would have been easy for a new book on leprosy in Japan to simply offer a narrative describing how the state introduced a policy of compulsory segregation of patients with leprosy that strengthened preexisting stigma and discrimination and left patients facing harsh predicaments. One of Burns" text's greatest assets is its ambition to go well beyond this and trace how the history of leprosy was constructed and transformed through complex interactions between the state, medical (scientific) specialists, missionaries, (central and regional) politicians, the market, the public, and, finally, leprosy patients themselves.

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