The entrance to the Department of History’s office in Sidney Smith Hall

The History and Afterlives of a Medical Utopia: Exploring the Remains of Colonial Medicine in the Afro-Pacific World

Start Date and Time:

Friday, April 6, 2018, 3:00PM

End Date and Time:

Friday, April 6, 2018, 5:00PM


Guillaume Lachenal

During World War II, a French colonial doctor named Doctor David received full and exclusive authority on the entire region of the Upper-Nyong, in the forests of East-Cameroon. His aim was to conduit a real-life “experiment” to transform and reinvent native society through a radical form of social medicine. My lecture will retrace the story of this strange biopolitical experiment, weaved with the biography of its main actor, Dr David, who became known as King David on the polynesian island of Wallis, before he became « Emperor » of East Cameroon. This utopian/dystopian attempt at social reform left many traces in Cameroon and in Wallis – songs and memories, ruined buildings and abandonned plantations. Bridging Africa and the Pacific, the imperial past and the neoliberal present, this history can be read as a fable – on utopia and megalomania in colonial governance, on power and powerlessness, on medical hubris, and on the writing of history among remains of Empires and development.

Guillaume Lachenal is associate Professor in history of science at the Université Paris Diderot. He is working on the history and anthropology of biomedicine in Africa. He has recently published The Lomidine Files. The untold story of a medical disaster (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017) and Le médecin qui voulut être roi. Sur les traces d’une utopie coloniale (Seuil, 2017).


  • Centre for the Study of France and the Francophone World

Contact Information

Rebecca Blanchard

Centre for the Study of France and the Francophone World


Room SS 2098, Natalie Zemon Davis Conference Room, 100 St George St, Toronto, ON M5S 2E5 view full map




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Image of Professor Guillaume Lachenal