Safeguarding Women's Bodies: The White Man's Burden Medicalized


Department of Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720.


In the European narration of the Orient, there was a deliberate stress on those qualities that made the East different from the West, exiled it into an irretrievable state of “otherness.” Among the many themes that emerge from the European narration of the Other, two appear most strikingly. The first is the insistent claim that the East was a place of lascivious sensuality, and the second that it was a realm characterised by inherent violence. … [Within the framework of] imperial confrontation … [p]olitical domination and economic exploitation needed the cosmetic cant of mission civilisatrice to seem fully commendatory. For the ideology of empire was hardly ever a brute jingoism; rather, it made subtle use of reason, and recruited science and history to serve its ends. The image of the European coloniser had to remain an honorable one: he did not come as exploiter, but as enlightener. He was not seeking mere profit, but was fulfilling his duty to his Maker and his sovereign, whilst aiding those less fortunate to rise toward his lofty level. This was the white man's burden.