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The “Feringhi Hakīm”: medical encounters and colonial ambivalence in Isabella Bird’s travels in Japan and Persia

  • This article considers Isabella Bird’s representation of medicine in Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (1880) and Journeys in Persia and Kurdistan (1891), the two books in which she engages most extensively with both local (Chinese/Islamic) and Western medical science and practice. I explore how Bird uses medicine to assert her narrative authority and define her travelling persona in opposition to local medical practitioners. I argue that her ambivalence and the unease she frequently expresses concerning medical practice (expressed particularly in her later adoption of the Persian appellation “Feringhi Hakīm” [European physician] to describe her work) serves as a means for her to negotiate the colonial and gendered pressures on Victorian medicine. While in Japan this attitude works to destabilise her hierarchical understanding of science and results in some acknowledgement of traditional Japanese traditions, in Persia it functions more to disguise her increasing collusion with overt British colonial ambitions.

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Author:Gigi AdairGND
Parent Title (German):Postprints der Universität Potsdam : Philosophische Reihe
Series (Serial Number):Postprints der Universität Potsdam : Philosophische Reihe (120)
Document Type:Postprint
Date of first Publication:2017/05/05
Year of Completion:2017
Publishing Institution:Universität Potsdam
Release Date:2017/05/05
Tag:Isabella Bird; Japan; Persia; colonialism; gender; medicine; missionaries; travel
Source:Studies in Travel Writing (2017). DOI 10.1080/13645145.2017.1298205
Organizational units:Philosophische Fakultät / Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Dewey Decimal Classification:8 Literatur / 82 Englische, altenglische Literaturen / 820 Englische, altenglische Literaturen
Peer Review:Referiert
Publication Way:Open Access
Grantor:Taylor & Francis Open Access Agreement
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung, 4.0 International