Medicine, mobility and the empire – Q&A with Markku Hokkanen

Posted by Rebecca Mortimer - Wednesday, 22 Nov 2017


What book in this field has inspired you the most?
John McCracken’s A History of Malawi and Megan Vaughan’s Curing their Ills.

Did your research take you to any unexpected places?
Yes. Fieldwork particularly in the Mzimba District in Northern Malawi had its surprising moments. Of archives and libraries in Malawi, UK and South Africa the most unexpected were perhaps the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew archives, Society of Malawi Library, and the University of Cape Town Archives.

What did you enjoy the most about writing your book?
All stages had their great moments, but seeing the final chapters take their shape was most rewarding – and seeing the book ready!

What did you find hardest about writing your book?
Getting the book into the proposal stage, and figuring out what this book finally was about (and what was left out).

Is this your first published book, or have you had others published?
My first book was Medicine and Scottish Missionaries in the Northern Malawi Region, 1875-1930: Quests for Health in a Colonial Society. (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2007).

How did you feel when you saw your first published book?
It was great, of course. Happiness and pride (and some tiredness too).

Why did you choose to publish with MUP?
MUP is a highly respected publisher of quality scholarship. The Studies of Imperialism series has been an important resource to me since I was an undergraduate, and my research seemed to fit the scope of the series well.

Did you approach writing this book differently to any of your previous work?
Yes. My previous book was based on my doctoral thesis, and as such it was a different kind of monograph. This book had more scope and freedom to write about what I considered important. At times I felt I could write more boldly.

Have you had time to think about your next research project yet? What are you working on now?
I am working on articles/ book chapters dealing with history of quinine in the British empire, alcohol and health in South-Central Africa, history of healing in Southern Africa and questions of medical provision for colonial labour – all themes that stem from this book one way or another. In addition, I am in charge of a Kone Foundation-funded research project about the histories and memories of Finnish development work, which is something largely new to me. As a project with three other scholars, it offers interesting scope for collaborative writing over the next few years.

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