Christopher Cowell - Early Hong Kong and Malaria: Tracing the Idea of a Colony through Visual Evidence

  • 17:15 GMT

  • Minto House, Elliot Room
    20-22 Chambers Street
    EH1 1JZ

Please note this event is hybrid - if you wish to view online, please select an "online viewing" ticket and you will receive zoom link before the event.

Early Hong Kong and Malaria: Tracing the Idea of a Colony through Visual Evidence

Speaker bio: 

Christopher Cowell is Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Architectural History in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Trinity College Dublin. His longstanding research explores the entanglement of modernity within British colonialism and how architecture and urbanism are implicated. He is currently working on a history of military cantonments (camps) in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century northern India and has just written a book on the shaping of early Hong Kong urbanism through contemporary perceptions of malaria, to be published later this year.

Lecture abstract: 

Based on Dr Cowell’s forthcoming book Form Follows Fever: Malaria, Architecture, and the Building of Hong Kong, this lecture explores the relatively obscure and precarious history of the first colonizing of Hong Kong Island across the 1840s and the building of its city of Victoria. During this period, the island gained a terrible reputation as a diseased and deadly location. Malaria intermittently carried off settlers by the hundreds. Architecture, cartography, and urbanism offer us a crucial forensic lens through which to examine the ideologies of public health and space, race and placemaking, commerce and politics, and the radical alteration of a city—from linear city to climbing city—in response to the pre-bacteriological paradigms of miasma and contagion. As this history is set a decade before the introduction of photography to the colony, this presentation focuses on a variety of visual evidence that individually and in combination provided the author with trace material enabling the reconstruction of this peculiar and rapidly evolving society. It sheds light on a period now considered the colonial ‘dark ages’ in the settlement’s history.