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Examples from south-east Europe
Christian Promitzer

In the mid nineteenth century the traditional system of quarantines as a precaution against plague was undergoing extensive modification. Shortly before this transformation took place, quarantines were introduced in the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire. The chapter first deals with contemporary assessments of the efficacy of the time-proven sanitary cordon at the southern border of the Habsburg Empire in the 1820s, before touching on the establishment of similar cordons in the Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia (the predecessors of modern Romania) and Serbia, as well as the foundation of a system of quarantines in the Ottoman Empire. After the disappearance of the plague in the 1840s, the Ottoman quarantines conduced a protracted trade war with the Kingdom of Greece. The latter circumstance demonstrates that the individual polities in the region also used quarantines for other purposes than sanitary ones. Up to the Crimean War, Russia, in particular, employed its quarantine station at the mouth of the Danube to block this riverine artery vis-à-vis the commercial interests of Austria and the British Empire. After the general transformation of the system of quarantines in the 1850s under the auspices of anticontagionism, the loophole for such diverse uses of quarantine would be closed.

in Medicalising borders
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The sanitary control of Muslim pilgrims from the Balkans, 1830–1914
Christian Promitzer

This chapter investigates the use of quarantine as an instrument of social control and as dispositive for the construction and stigmatization of the Muslim ‘other’. The study takes the under-researched case of the Hajj to Mecca from the Balkans, hence focusing on Muslims from Bulgaria and Bosnia-Herzegovina (the latter under Austrian-Hungarian rule as from 1878). Both Bosnian and Bulgarian Muslim pilgrims experienced quarantine on their return from Mecca, yet in unequal measures. Bosnian hajjis were given a more lenient quarantine than their Bulgarian co-religionists by their separate sanitary authorities – with regard to the duration of isolation and the disinfection of their bodies and personal belongings. This was due to the different political and cultural attitudes towards their Muslim minorities by these two Balkan regimes.

in Mediterranean Quarantines, 1750–1914
Selection, containment and quarantine since 1800

The subject of this volume is situated at the point of intersection of the studies of medicalisation and border studies. The authors discuss borders as sites where human mobility has been and is being controlled by biomedical means, both historically and in the present. Three types of border control technologies for preventing the spread of disease are considered: quarantine, containment and the biomedical selection of migrants and refugees. These different types of border control technologies are not exclusive of one another, nor do they necessarily lead to total restrictions on movement. Instead of a simplifying logic of exclusion–inclusion, this volume turns the focus towards the multilayered entanglement of medical regimes in attempts at managing the porosity of the borders. State and institutional responses to the COVID-19 pandemic provide evidence for the topicality of such attempts. Using interdisciplinary approaches, the chapters scrutinise ways in which concerns and policies of disease prevention shift or multiply borders, as well as connecting or disconnecting places. The authors address several questions: to what degree has containment for medical reasons operated as a bordering process in different historical periods including the classical quarantine in the Mediterranean and south-eastern Europe, in the Nazi-era, and in postcolonial UK? Moreover, do understandings of disease and the policies for selecting migrants and refugees draw on both border regimes and humanitarianism, and what factors put limits on the technologies of selection?

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Medicalising borders
Sevasti Trubeta, Christian Promitzer, and Paul Weindling

The coronavirus emergency has highlighted the sanitary significance of borders, and therefore reinforced the need for turning the spotlight on the medical dimension as essential to border studies. A critical perspective emerges from the synthesis between the interdisciplinary field of border studies and longer-term historical studies of quarantine, contagion and sanitary controls on migrants and those who cross borders. The introductory part of this volume specifies the overall concept of the volume and the questions addressed in the chapters as being situated at the point of intersection of approaches to medicalisation and borders. The focus on interstitial borders represents a shift from policy in a single country to an interactive approach that may bring to the light transnational, regional and local dynamics. A demarcating border becomes an interactive location of cultural intersections, and transformative processes of cleansing and disinfection. What factors differing from, or complementary to, public health concerns (including economic and professional interests) do health control techniques at borders depend on? In which ways are such factors interwoven with a goal of constantly increasing scientific knowledge? How do (designed or implemented) medical controls at the borders connect or disconnect places by means of the containment, quarantine, detention and selection of migrants, refugees and border-crossers?

in Medicalising borders