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Planning Belgian Congo’s network of medical infrastructure: type-plans as tools to construct a medical model-colony, 1949–1959,


Year published: 2019
Categories: Journal Article

Author / Authors:

  • Simon De Nys-Ketels
  • Laurence Heindryckx
  • Johan Lagae
  • Luce Beeckmans


Throughout the 1950s, the Belgian colonial government constructed a vast network of hospital infrastructure as part of its Ten-Year Plan, a colony-wide socio-economic scheme emblematic for the era of ‘welfare colonialism.’ This network played a key role in Belgian colonialism, by providing healthcare, but also by boosting labour productivity, facilitating state presence and control, and by advertising Congo as a medical model-colony. In this article, we unpack the extensive administrative apparatus that was necessary to buttress this ambitious building programme, and we highlight type-plans as crucial government tools to construct such a vast network of healthcare infrastructure. At first glance, the use of type-plans confirms classic characterizations of the Belgian colonial government as an omnipotent and technocratic state apparatus that implemented large, top-down government plans through authoritative methods, often discarding local realities. However, tracing hospital construction on the ground reveals that type-plans did not function as immutable models, but rather as modular blueprints that allowed local administrations to adapt hospitals to local needs and contingencies. As such, our article illustrates how, facilitated by surprisingly flexible type-plans, everyday colonial policymaking in Belgian Congo was, contrary to the still dominant discourse, deeply reliant on the agency and aptitude of local officials.

Planning Perspectives, DOI: 10.1080/02665433.2019.1633950


  • Journal Article