Animals, Colonial Governance, and the Health of the Land: Biological Management and Territorial Rule in Early 20th-Century Hawai`i

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 1:30 PM
Salon 12 (Palmer House Hilton)
Jessica Wang, University of British Columbia
In the early decades of the twentieth century, the Board of Commissioners of Agriculture and Forestry for the Territory of Hawaii devoted close attention to regulating the importation of birds, reptiles, and mammals, as well as keeping out new insect species. This history of animal regulation and quarantine highlights the overlapping spheres of agriculture, veterinary medicine, animal husbandry, public health, and island ecology. Rigorous plant inspection regimes had to strike a balance between letting in plants for purposes of food supply and production of agricultural commodities versus admitting pests that might wreak agricultural and ecological devastation. Absolute prohibitions of birds and reptiles also aimed at protecting what experts understood as a delicate island ecosystem that might suffer irreparable damage from the actions of thoughtless collectors and zoological enthusiasts. Meanwhile, inspection of domesticated mammals sought to protect both animal and human health while also admitting animals necessary for food and transportation. Hence animals constituted objects of colonial governance that determined the health of humans, non-humans, and the environment itself. Colonial rule relied upon not just on mechanisms of political oversight and control over human-human relations, but on extensive legal and administrative arrangements designed to achieve the biological and ecological management of imperial spaces.
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