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Sevasti Trubeta

Perceptions and representations of refugees and migrants as dangerous carriers of infectious diseases have been discussed in the scholarly debate as long-standing racialised prejudices and racist attitudes. This essay explores the operating force of such prejudices in the period during and immediately after the summer of 2015. This was a period in which what was called the ‘welcome culture’ shaped in Europe a framework of political correctness that conformed with humanitarianism and anti-racism. Given this framework and in view of the rescue operations at the European borders, how is racialisation and racism possible and operative? In dealing with these questions the author revisits the scholarly debates on ‘race’, ‘post-racial’ ideology and ‘colour-blind racism’ and makes the following arguments. In the treatment and representations of refugees and immigrants as potential vectors of infectious diseases (including the ritualised visual inspection of rescued border-crossers), there are codified global inequalities and a racial logic that draws on an ambivalence inherent to border regimes: humanitarian aid and securitisation. Both the metaphorical and literal signification of disease as a biological threat emerging from the global South (from ‘elsewhere’) mediates between biological warfare and migration; racism absolutises the biomedical perception of disease. Moreover, the racial logic translates the endemicity of disease in a geographical location into an endemicity of the pathogens in the bodies of the inhabitants. In this way, the risk of disease appears to be ascribed to the collective heredity of those who originate in the global South.

in Medicalising borders
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?

Abstract only
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