- Colonial Dis-Ease: US Navy Health Policies and the Chamorros of Guam, 1898-1941
Many aspects of Chamorro life could potentially be chosen to demonstrate the complexities of their indigenous negotiations of colonialism (and all its trappings) on Guam: education, politics, family, or even sports. The tricky part is laying bare how US colonialism may reverberate through Chamorro life, while simultaneously explicating the intricacies of the colonial project itself within a specific cultural arena, and conveying this complexity within a tightly written presentation, which displays the messy, ambiguous reality of colonial projects in a coherent way. Anne Perez Hattori accomplishes these goals with precision, fluidity, and compassion in her book Colonial Dis-Ease: US Navy Health Policies and the Chamorros of Guam, 1898–1941. The author reveals her focus on health and sanitation colonial policies on Guam through the implementation of the naval medical practices, which Chamorros then have to navigate.
Hattori cross-examines Western and naval written sources about health issues on Guam with "previously unexplored sources" (10), including personal Chamorro testimonies. Her lens derives from the theoretical framework of postcolonial literature—an analytical scaffolding she lays out but does not belabor. [End Page 451] This allows her work to be accessible to a wide audience, an important quality in a historical treatise about Guam, since few histories of this caliber exist as yet. She funnels her historical analysis within the specific period of Guam's colonial history (1898–1941). This organizational choice allows her to develop her thesis with concentrated detail and biting poignancy.
The wealth of naval and Western resources the author explicates tend to valorize the medical contributions made by naval personnel on Guam, held up as examples of tremendously successful US "colonial benevolence" (10). Yet, as she clears away the smokescreen of colonial benevolence (18–38), the author reveals how naval medical pursuits on Guam were a vital conduit through which the US colonial power and hegemonic structures became institutionalized and manifested. Hattori is able to explain with conviction that the naval zeal for the improvement of the Chamorro health and sanitation conditions on Guam was embedded in things other than consideration for Chamorro well-being. For example, according tosentiments openly communicated innaval records, ensuring healthy Chamorros was a means of guaranteeing the well-being of their own naval personnel and labor, a matter ofmuch concern to naval elites. In addition, Hattori argues that the naval preoccupation with health matters on Guam was grounded in Western ruminations about the physical dangers of tropical climates, and simultaneously rooted in the American schemata of race, class, andgender. Furthermore, Hattori necessarily contextualizes what was going on medically in Guam in terms of the health concerns of US mainland and military establishments. These national and international discourses bolster and thicken her arguments about Guam's health and sanitation policies.
As Hattori demonstrates, the institutionalization of health mechanisms on Guam was a colonial project of extreme clarity and purpose. Through the dogged and persistent fashioning of "healthy" Chamorro bodies, US colonialism became aggrandized in narrative, expanded in breadth, and uniquely suited to wheedle into the everyday experience of Chamorro lives.
The real strength of this work is Hattori's interrogation of colonial discourse about medical issues on Guam through a multitude of Chamorro experiences and voices. Careful to avoid a "binary opposition" between the US military personnel and administration versus the Chamorros (a common pitfall of comparable literature), she demonstrates the variety and complexity of Chamorro negotiations of military health and sanitation—that is, colonial—impositions. Chapters sequentially address Hansen's disease ("leprosy"), the administration of Chamorro midwives and nurses, the creation and operation of the Susana Hospital for women and children, andthe implementation of hookworm and related hygiene policies. In each, the author systematically first locates the subject within wider issues, and then gives room for the ethnographic detail to shine through a discussion ofparticulars on Guam...