A Third Perspective between Colonialism and Nationalism: Inter-Colonial Health Governing Schemes of the League of Nations’ Far Eastern Rural Hygiene Conference, Bandung 1937

Shortly after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, the League of Nations held the Far Eastern Rural Hygiene Conference in Bandung, which was hosted by the Dutch East Indies government, between 3–13 August 1937. The conference of 1937 has long been overshadowed by the other Bandung Conference of 1955, which launched the third force of non-alliance in the bipolar Cold War politics, led by post-colonial leaders in Asia. In recent years, however, scholars of international health have begun to argue the significance of the 1937 Bandung conference; some see its significance in having shaped a primary health care prototype for the Alma-Ata declaration in 1978, and others, in the development of national (as opposed to colonial) reconstruction movements in colonial Asia.

Postcard of the Rural Hygiene Conference, 1937

This paper uses the notion of inter-colonialism, which stresses the role of the imperial polities, not only national sovereign states, in the operations of the League of Nations Health Organization (LNHO), and examines the meaning of the inter-colonial agenda and schemes which this Bandung Conference of 1937 promoted. It demonstrates how ‘self-help’ became an important idea in these agenda and schemes. It argues that this analysis suggests a third, inter-colonial, perspective which allows us to understand the complexity of the role of ‘national’ public health experts between colonial governments and independence movements, as well as the ambiguity of the following international health schemes in post-colonial Asia. The research for this project has been funded by the ARC discovery grant.

Tomoko Akami is Associate Professor at the School of Culture, History and Language at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific. She works on the history of international organizations and Japan’s political and diplomatic history. Her publications include: Soft Power of Japan’s Total War State, 1934–45 (2014); Japan’s News Propaganda and Reuters’ News Empire, 1870–1934 (2012); Internationalizing the Pacific (2002); and ‘A Quest to be Global: The League of Nations Health Organization and Inter-Colonial Regional Governing Agendas of the Far Eastern Association of Tropical Medicine, 1910–25’, The International Historical Review, vol. 38, issue. 1 (2016), pp. 1–23.

Please direct enquiries to Tania.Colwell@anu.edu.au, Annemarie.McLaren@anu.edu.au

Date & time

Wed 21 Sep 2016, 4.15–5.30pm


McDonald Room, Menzies Library, ANU

Event series


School of History


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