Aro VelmetDec 31, 2021
Bacteriology and Politics in France, Its Colonies, and the World
Oxford University Press 2020
Aro Velmet's Pasteur's Empire: Bacteriology in France, Its Colonies, and the World (Oxford UP, 2020) is a complex history of the Pasteur Institutes, a network of scientific laboratories established in France and throughout the French empire, beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century. The book examines the crucial roles Pastorians and Pasteurization played in the imperial project in and between different locations, particularly in Southeast Asia and Africa. Participating in the "civilizing mission," helping to establish and maintain industrial monopolies, and the control of colonial bodies through public health regulation and disease management, the institutes had a tremendous political impact.
Attentive to the experiences and perspectives of the Vietnamese and African peoples in the sites the book focuses on, Pasteur's Empire examines a range of scientific responses and measures, from the study and containment of infectious and epidemic disease to the microbiological aspects of industry. The book's chapters move from "Indochina" to North and West Africa, tracing the way that Pastorians and Pasteurization worked with(in) and sometimes pushed against colonial structures and assumptions. French modernity and the "civilizing mission" had profound and practical biological dimensions. A history that pursues ideas about modernity and the meanings of scientific and other forms of mobility, Pasteur's Empire moves from the local to the global while bringing together science, medicine, and politics. Enjoy the episode!
Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada who specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century France and its empire. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send her an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).