Orientating Nature: Orientalising the Environment in Malaria Surveys in Palestine, 1880s-1940s

Doctors, malariologists, and health experts, who toured in Palestine in the late 19th century and early 20th century, have written down their observations of nature. Through examining these observations of nature, the landscape and its connection to the health and the body, an image is portrayed that relies on imagination. The natural landscape formed a surprise to these doctors in its difference from the imagined Holy Land that was described in the Bible, and its difference from what they encountered back in their countries of origin.

The doctors and sanitary engineers, who were conducting the surveys, were Westerners who often came to Palestine and the levant to study the health situation in it for various objectives. Some of the doctors came to Palestine as missionaries, some arrived as colonizers, others were sent to Palestine for work, but they had somethings in common, their view of nature was not very different from how they viewed the native Palestinian Arabs. Mainly, that of a self-perceived civility in contrast to the «Oriental’s» primitivity. Nature was viewed with just as much prejudice and looking down on as it was for the people. Part of their mission was to civilize the people, but also «civilize» the static nature and save it from deterioration and neglect.

Malaria surveys that were conducted in Palestine in that period century addressed the environment as an important factor that contributed and facilitated the spread of malaria, by providing conditions for mosquito breeding. The combination of stagnant or slow running water, fauna and hot climate created favorable environment for the reproduction of the anopheles mosquito the main vector of malaria. This paper will examine the nature that was described in these reports and malaria surveys, and the way nature and the environment were described, and the ways it could be developed through the malaria eradication efforts.