Accepted Paper:

The chronic isolation: experiencing Hansen's disease in Europe's last leprosarium  


Andrei Mihail (SNSPA Bucharest)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the strategies elaborated by inhabitants of the leper's hospital of Thichilești (RO) in order to create new meanings for an almost enclosed life inside the medical institution.

Paper long abstract:

Being confined in the leprosarium meant losing your connections with the outside world due to the disease. Hansens Disease is, as Bury (1982) sugests, either a disruption of the individual`s biography for those who got it from the outside, or the biography itself for inhabitants of the institution who were born here from ill parents. In this paper I will describe the social life of Tichilești, one of the last lepers hospitals in the world. Focusing on the personal experience of those who are living in the institution, this paper will elaborate on the strategies inhabitants develop in order to construct purpose in a place almost disconnected from "liberty". Formal rules of the institution, like scheduled meals or frequent medical exams are mixed with informal practices of domestication of the hospital in order to shape a meaningfull experience oposed to a stigmatizing outside. For them, leprosy constructs the unique dichotomy of a gated well-being adjacent with a longed, but almost intangible liberty. Stigma becomes an embedded part of the daily experience as noted not just by the permanent inhabitants of the hospital, but also by some of the medical and auxiliary staff of the institution.

Panel P098
Living with chronic illness: challenges and perspectives across borders