Medicalising borders

Selection, containment and quarantine since 1800

Edited by Sevasti Trubeta, Christian Promitzer and Paul Weindling

Medicalising borders


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5465-1
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: April 2021
  • BIC Category: History of Medicine, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Emigration & Immigration, HISTORY / Modern / General, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural, Society & social sciences / Migration, immigration & emigration, Society & social sciences / Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography, Medicine / History of medicine, Medical Anthropology
  • Series: Rethinking Borders


The research of pandemics, epidemics, and pathogens like COVID-19, reaches far beyond the scope of biomedicine. It is not only an objective for the health, political and social sciences, but epidemics and pandemics are furthermore a matter of geography: foci and vectors of communicable diseases continue to test the efficacy of medical control at state borders.

This volume illuminates these issues from various disciplinary viewpoints. It starts with historical models of quarantine, spatial isolation and detention as precautionary means against the dissemination of disease and contagion by border crossers, migrants and refugees. Besides the patterns of prejudice with which these groups are confronted, the book also deals with various kinds of fear of contamination from the outside of the nation state. It addresses the implementation of medical techniques at state borders in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, as well as the presently practiced measures of medical and biometric screening of migrants and refugees. Uniquely, this volume shows that the current border security regimes of Western states exhibit a high share of medicalised techniques of power, which originate in European modernity and in the medical and biological disciplines developed during the last quarter of the millennium.

Drawing on the collective expertise of a network of international researchers, this interdisciplinary volume is essential reading for those wishing to understand the medicalisation of borders across the globe, from the early eighteenth century up to the present day.


Introduction: Medicalising borders - Sevasti Trubeta, Christian Promitzer, Paul Weindling

1 Habsburg border quarantines until 1837: an epidemiological 'iron curtain'? - Sabine Jesner
2 Cholera at the junction of maritime and land routes in 19th-century Trieste - Urska Bratoz
3 Uses of quarantine in the 19th century until the Crimean War - examples from Southeast Europe - Christian Promitzer
4 Weak State-controlled disease prevention in peripheral border regions: Austrian Bukovina and Dalmatia in late 19th century - Carlos Watzka

(Dis-)connections - containment
5 Lazarettos as border filters: expurgating bodies, commodities and ideas, 1800-1870s - John Chircop
6 Sealing borders and containing prisoners: from free movement of migrants to containment in concentration camps - Paul Weindling
7 Locating disease: on the co-existence of diverse concepts of territory and the spread of disease - Sarah Green
8 Fear and panic at the borders: outbreak anxieties in the United States from the colonies to COVID-19 - Amy Lauren Fairchild, Constance A. Nathanson, and Cullen Conway

9 'Suspect' screening: the limits of Britain's medicalised borders, 1962-1981 - Roberta Bivins
10 A question of hygiene or nationality? Exclusion and non-Jewish labour migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers in Israel, 2006-2017 - Robin A. Harper and Hani Zubida
11 Medicalised borders and racism in the era of humanitarianism - Sevasti Trubeta


Sevasti Trubeta is a researcher at the Institute of Childhood Studies, University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal

Christian Promitzer is a researcher at the Institute for History, University of Graz

Paul Weindling is Wellcome Trust Research Professor in the History of Medicine at Oxford Brookes University

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