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The Effects of Elusive Knowledge

Census, Health Laws and Inconsistently Modern Subjects in Early Colonial Vanuatu

Alexandra Widmer

In this article, I discuss two roles of documents in the creation and enforcement of public health laws in early colonial Vanuatu and their implication in colonial attempts to transform ni-Vanuatu societies and subjectivities. Colonial officials of the British-French Condominium based their projects on their admittedly partial knowledge in reports generated by experts studying depopulation. This knowledge, I argue, produced a ‘population’ by categorizing people according to their relationship with a reified notion of culture. The Condominium enforced health laws by sending letters to people categorized as Christian who would, the Condominium hoped, adhere to the regulations as self governing subjects. Officials would engage in persuasive conversations when they enforced the regulations in ‘bush’ villages. I conclude by reflecting on ni- Vanuatu knowledge of well-being and illness that could not be represented or documented and its centrality for subjectivities that might elude, if not subvert, the modern subject presumed by colonial strategies of governance.

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Lisen Dellenborg and Margret Lepp

actions in everyday encounters, actions counteracting patients’ as well as professionals’ well-being on the ward. Participant observation on the ward confirms this picture; there was a strong focus on biomedical knowledge and routines as described in the

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Birgitte Bruun

(biomedical) knowledge in an East African city . Medical Anthropology 33 ( 1 ): 68 – 83 . 10.1080/01459740.2013.833918 Rajan , Kaushik Sunder . 2005 . Subjects of speculation: Emergent life sciences and market logics in the United States and India

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Maria Bucur, Alexandra Ghit, Ayşe Durakbaşa, Ivana Pantelić, Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild, Elizabeth A. Wood, Anna Müller, Galina Goncharova, Zorana Antonijević, Katarzyna Sierakowska, Andrea Feldman, Maria Kokkinou, Alexandra Zavos, Marija M. Bulatović, Siobhán Hearne, and Rayna Gavrilova

dimensions of biomedical knowledge, covering important political and cultural processes both in national and transnational contexts. Chronologically, the text's purview extends from the development of legislation and institutional structures and practices of