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Home arrow Language & Literature arrow Syphilis in Victorian Literature and Culture: Medicine, Knowledge and the Spectacle of Victorian Invisibility
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Lock Hospitals: Nodal Points of (In)Visibility

Lock hospitals were another site of confinement crucial to the British politics of syphilis prophylaxis. They were the nodal points of local, national and imperial policies. They were the chief sites of syphilis prevention and treatment, which also participated in broader technologies of regulation. Philippa Levine regards them as “vital cog[s] in the machinery of regulation” (2003: 212) and Philip Howell points out their complexity as places “where the contrapuntal forces of colonial and social hygiene and military discipline were brought to bear on the diseased bodies of women inmates” (2009: 198). They existed in an institutional network characterized by strong gender, class, racial and financial underpinnings instituted in the course of a historically specific management of venereal diseases, which produced inevitable tensions between the public (in)visibility of the institutions and their patients. Throughout the ages, segregation and isolation were the guiding principles in the health provision offered by these institutions.

This section traces the tensions inherent to the (social) creation of lock hospitals as elemental sites of public (in)visibility in Victorian times. Attentive to the conceived, perceived and lived character of these spaces, it addresses them as both sites of isolation, invisibility and confinement as well as spaces of reformation and healing. Through this differentiation, it hopes to outline not only the variety of processes that turned these institutions into socio-politically viable sites of surveillance but also into ambiguous spaces of welfare provision. By attending to the plans of governmental lock facilities, I inquire about the ways in which the moral and physical care provision offered in these institutions, like medical geographies of syphilis and the monitoring of ill soldiers, fostered specific types of citizenship and demanded a degree of civic responsibility.

 
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