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Health History. 2011;13(2):65-83.

The inclusivity of exclusion: isolation and community among leprosy-affected people in the South Pacific.

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  • 1University of Canterbury.


From 1911 to 1969 those people diagnosed with leprosy in the South Pacific were gradually isolated and received medical treatment at the Central Lepers' Hospital, Makogai Island, Fiji. Until the discovery of sulfones in the 1940s leprosy was largely incurable and it was expected that those who went to the island would never return. This paper assumes that the stigma attendant on leprosy which provoked the isolation order is itself a form of disability. The paper draws on patients'stories to explore their individual and collective experience of isolation and suggests that for many, collective isolation on Makogai was an enabling experience. On Makogai, leprosy was the 'norm', the social disability of stigma was removed and people were able to be self-sufficient, to build community and social relationships and to live a fairly ordinary island life.

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