A comparative investigation of visual representations of tropical diseases in early 20th century Malawi and Sudan

Year of award: 2019


  • Chimwemwe Phiri

    Durham University

Project summary

In the 20th century, medical photographs were used to make sense of disease outbreaks. I will examine historical and contemporary meanings of medical photographs taken by Dr John Brian Christopherson and Dr Hugh Stannus Stannus, who were colonial medical officers deployed in Sudan and Malawi, respectively. 

Fieldwork will be conducted in two phases. The first phase will involve archival research in the UK and the second phase will situate the collections in contemporary settings in Malawi, Kenya and Sudan through a visual repatriation, interviews, exhibitions and panel discussions that explore what lessons historical medical photographs could provide for managing disease outbreaks and epidemics in the present era. 

The project will provide an important contribution to public health and epidemiological studies by comparing meanings of visual representations of diseases over time with the aim of identifying principles that could help us prepare for future outbreaks.