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Healing the NationPrisoners of War, Medicine and Nationalism in Turkey, 1914-1939$
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Yucel Yanikdag

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748665785

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748665785.001.0001

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Prisoners as Disease Carriers: Cases of Pellagra and Trachoma

Prisoners as Disease Carriers: Cases of Pellagra and Trachoma

Chapter:
(p.119) Chapter 4 Prisoners as Disease Carriers: Cases of Pellagra and Trachoma
Source:
Healing the Nation
Author(s):

Yücel Yanikdağ

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748665785.003.0005

This chapter examines how two diseases – pellagra and trachoma – acquired either at the front or in British prison camps in Egypt first turned prisoners into contested objects of concern between the two sides and also provided a post-war pretext for the Turkish republic to extend its bio-political reach among the Anatolian population. A nutritional deficiency disease, pellagra appeared among Ottoman prisoners while in the camps. British doctors argued that the prisoners were already pellagrous upon arrival to the camps. While this might have been only partially true for some prisoners, many others became pellagrous due to the camp diet inadequate in vitamin niacin. After examining the politics of ‘pellagra’, the chapter turns to trachoma, which caused full or partial blindness among many prisoners. While pellagra disappeared quickly, within a few years of repatriation, trachoma brought home by the prisoners spread to nearly one-fifth of the general population of Anatolia. The prevalence of trachoma provided a pretext for the nationalist state to extend its control of the population in an attempt to manage people’s lives and habits. Knowledge and control gained through managing bodies was also a means for defining the identity of internal others.

Keywords:   pellagra, trachoma, disease carriers, Orientalism, Egypt, camp diet, German prisoners, blindness, Malta, creosol

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