Memories of a Bendigonian Chinese Herbalist

China Studies Research Centre, La Trobe University

What’s on a Façade? Affective Architecture and Memories of a Bendigonian Chinese Herbalist, James Lam Say, 1887-2017
Dr Nadia Rhook

2:30-4:00pm, Wednesday 31 May 2017
Room 318, Education 2 (ED2), La Trobe University

James Lam Say was born in Canton in 1831 into a family of successful physicians. He trained at King’s College and Canton Hospital before migrating to Victoria, where he worked in Geelong, Melbourne and Beechworth before settling in Bendigo in the mid-1870s. There, Lam Say became the city’s most prominent herbalist and a prolific proprietor. Historians have demonstrated that private property is a cornerstone of settler colonial societies, where imperatives to display settler sovereignty over indigenous land give architecture heavy symbolic weight; as Tracey Banivanua Mar and Penny Edmonds have put it, ‘to see [property] ownership is to believe it’. But what affects did Lam Say’s architecturally designed house and medical practice have on the hearts, minds, and politics of people who moved through the racially stratified streets of Bendigo? This presentation will explore the ways Lam Say purchased the trust and respect – of Victorians and of the Chinese Imperial Government – through architecture. How did Lam Say’s proprietorial capital buttress his medical career, and vice versa? What walls posed racial boundaries to Lam Say’s medical status? And how do the facades that Lam Say paid for continue to impress Bendigonians today?

Dr Nadia Rhook lectures and researches colonial history at La Trobe University. Her research is much inspired by her background in ESL teaching. Since 2014 she’s been running the walking tour ‘Migration and the Private Lives of the Hoddle Grid’, and in 2016 she curated the City of Melbourne heritage exhibition ‘Moving Tongues: language and migration in 1890s Melbourne’. Nadia has published in international and local journals including Postcolonial Studies and Peril: Asian Australian Arts and Culture Magazine, and is currently writing a book about the politics of language and Asian migration in colonial Melbourne, under contract with Duke University Press.

Register before Tuesday 16 May:,-james-lam-say,-1887-2017.