Remembering Leprosy in America
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
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Growing up, my daddy convinced me that Carville, Louisiana, was the best place in the entire world. He always made sure I remembered that we had the best climate, the best people, the best family, the best soil, the best peaches—the best everything. I wore my last name...
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As a native of Louisiana, I first became aware of Carville and its people in association with election returns (always a colorful topic in this state). Carville is both the name of a small village along the Mississippi River in southern Louisiana and the popular designation
1. Carville, Leprosy, and Real People: An Introduction to a Culture Apart
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Carville, Louisiana, has been associated with the care and treatment of leprosy patients for over a century. From 1894 to 1999, it was the site of the only in-patient hospital in the continental United States for the treatment of Hansen’s disease, the preferred designation for...
2. “An Exile in My Own Country”: The Unspeakable Trauma of Entering Carville
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A diagnosis of leprosy was inevitably traumatic. Such a diagnosis was usually totally unexpected as well. Even when the diagnosis was not a complete surprise (because of the knowledge that other family members had the disease), it was still devastating. In such cases...
3. “Through the Hole in the Fence”: Personal Narratives of Absconding from Carville
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Because there are so many misconceptions about leprosy patients, the sense of isolation continued for many of the older patients in the 1980s and 1990s, even though they were all there by choice. The continuing use of the term leper to denote an outcast from society was...
4. Telling It Slant: Personal Narratives, Tall Tales, and the Reality of Leprosy
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For most people, the truth’s “superb surprise” of having someone say to them “I have leprosy” is more reality than they can accept or even fathom. Some people may not even be aware that Hansen’s disease still exists in...
5. The World Downside Up: Mardi Gras at Carville
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Michel Foucault begins the first chapter of Madness and Civilization (1988) with this statement: “At the end of the Middle Ages, leprosy disappeared from the Western world.” He goes on to say...
6. “Under the Pecans”: History and Memory in the Graveyard at Carville
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The National Hansen’s Disease Center at Carville had many of the marks and establishments of a typical community, and like other communities, it had a graveyard— a place to bury its deceased members. Unlike other...
7. Remembering Leprosy: Postmemory and the Carville Legacy
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G. W. Long Hansen’s Disease Center at Carville officially closed in 1999. At the same time, the National Hansen’s Disease Program was relocated to Summit Hospital Complex in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The...
Appendix A: Carville Death Records on Cemetery Marker
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Appendix B: Quotation from Plaque at Entrance to National Hansen’s Disease Museum at Carville
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Sources Cited and Consulted
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Publication Year: 2004