IASH Scholar Awarded National Library of Australia Fellowship

22 Aug 2018

IASH congratulates Daniel Midena on the announcement yesterday that he has been awarded a National Library of Australia Fellowship.

"My project examines the historical encounter between modern medicine and ‘sorcery’ through the biography of Edwin Tscharke (1918-2000), an Australian medical missionary in New Guinea in the late twentieth century," says Daniel.

Tscharke, who left his South Australian home to establish a mission hospital and medical training facilities on Karkar Island in New Guinea, was arguably one of the most influential medical missionaries in the Pacific since 1945. The World Health Organisation officially recognised him for his innovative efforts to educate Indigenous medical staff. Not unlike his much more famous forbears—including the medical missionary Dr David Livingstone in Africa—Edwin Tscharke also devoted considerable energy to thinking and writing about how to disabuse locals (as he saw it) of their belief in ‘sorcery’.

"During my Fellowship, I will examine the National Library's 'Tscharke’s papers', which is a substantial and largely unexamined collection of Tscharke’s personal papers comprising more than 30 boxes or 5.42m of material. This will take some time!"

Daniel's work is accutely relevant to contemporary problems, given the recent upsurge of violence against those accused of causing illness and death through various forms of sorcery in parts of Melanesia. His work will bring about a better understanding of the current and past relationship between Christianity, ‘sorcery’ and Western medicine.