337 Cohen Hall
David Arnol, University of Warwick
“India’s Toxic Transition: Poison, Pollution, and Public Health, 1870-1930”
Abstract: While histories of health and medicine in South Asia have concentrated on disease, its etiology and containment, there is a no less important story to be told of toxicity—of medical systems as systems of toxicological knowledge and of public health as centrally concerned with issues of poisoning and pollution. This paper shows how the toxic agenda in colonial India moved from poison plants to criminology and medical jurisprudence, and from “poison panics” to public health. It considers how poison acquired new publics—both imperial and Indian—and became sufficiently menacing to warrant its own scientific agencies and special legislation. By the 1930s India had embraced toxicity in ways that were critical to its emerging development agenda.
David Arnold is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Warwick, UK. His published works include Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), and The Tropics and the Traveling Gaze: India, Landscape, and Science, 1800-1856 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006). His current work is on poison and pollution in nineteenth- and twentieth-century India.