In 1897 the first International Leprosy Congress was held in Berlin. Delegates came from all reaches of the colonized world, where leprosy (now known as Hansen’s disease) was of great concern and thought to be an “imperial danger” by some. By this time, the settlement on Molokai had become well known; most notably the service and death of Father Damien de Veuster had brought much notoriety to the small peninsula on Molokai’s northern shore. At the conference, the Norwegian model of voluntary quarantine was held up as a means to stop the spread of the disease, but it was the model of the leprosy settlement of Molokai and its policies of compulsory isolation that was most often followed by those in the colonized world. Thus, similar forms of quarantine for leprosy—isolation, separation, geographical boundaries—were soon found in many parts of the world, many citing Molokai as their inspiration. But what was the “truth” of Molokai, and was this a model of success? Why did so many others look to Hawai‘i as the example to follow? These and other questions are explored in this paper, illuminating an ironic twist of Brother Joseph Dutton’s words that “one’s Molokai can be anywhere.”


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 611-627
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.