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Border Crossing and Medicine: Quarantine, Detention and Containment in History and the Present

02.02.2017 - 04.02.2017
Trubeta S., Promitzer C., Weindling P., (Eds.) (2021). Medicalising borders - Selection, containment and quarantine since 1800. Manchester University Press

International Conference
Venue: Freie Universität Berlin, Seminar Centre / Seminarzentrum L115 (Silberlaube), Otto-von-Simson-Str. 26, 14195 Berlin

Based on diverse historical and contemporary examples and case studies, the conference addresses the implementation of medical and genetic techniques at the borders of Western countries, with respect to their spatial and discursive components. The notion of quarantine provides a conceptual umbrella. The point of departure is the question as to whether the presently practiced measures of medical and biometric screening of migrants and refugees have been developed against the background of a long-standing historical tradition. Linked issues include how far current border security regimes of Western states exhibit a high share of bio-political techniques of power that originate in European modernity and in the medical and biological disciplines developed at the time.

Starting from the diverse models of quarantine in history we address issues related to the fear of contamination by crossing borders; spatial isolation and detention of migrants and border crossers for preventing dissemination of disease and contagion; and the usage of medical and genetic screening in selecting migrants.


Prof. Dr. Sevasti Trubeta (DAAD-Gastdozentur)

Centrum Modernes Griechenland, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, Raum JK 31-3-03, 14195 Berlin
Telefon: (030) 838-529 33 E-Mail: sevasti.trubeta@fu-berlin.de

PROGRAM: Thursday, 2 February 2017 9.30 Opening of the conference 9.45-11.00 Panel: Quarantine in European history I

Chair: Paul Weindling (Oxford Brookes)

  • Urška Bratož (Koper): Cholera in Trieste in the 19th century: power and impotence of quarantines in a Mediterranean port city
  • Carlos Watzka (Graz): Steady observation: The attention towards South Eastern Europe within Austria-Hungary’s state reporting system on infectious diseases before WWI


Coffee break

11.30-13.00 Panel: Quarantine in European history II

Chair: Nadav Davidovitch (Be’er Sheva)

  • Sabine Jesner (Graz): Discipline and the territorial state: the quarantines at the Habsburg Cordon Sanitaire until the Austrian Plague Law of 1836
  • Daniela Teodora Sechel (Graz): Quarantines and the empowerment of nation states: the role of the Moldavian example (1830-1856)


Lunch Break

15.00-16.30 Panel: Quarantine during the WWII

Chair: Sascha Topp(Berlin)

  • Paul Weindling (Oxford Brookes): Quarantine and the Holocaust: Containment for Research
  • Sabine Schleiermacher (Berlin): Gatekeepers for the Third Reich: Public health officers, forced labour and control of epidemics


Coffee break 

17.00-18.30 Evening lecture

Amy Fairchild L. (Texas A&M School of Public Health):

Outbreak Anxieties: The Genealogy and Politics of Public Health Panics

Chair: Christian Promitzer (Graz)

PROGRAM: Friday, 3 February 2017 9.30 -11.30 Panel: Maritime Quarantine: The Mediterranean Sea

Chair: Hani Zubida (Yezreel Valley)

  • John Chircop (Malta): The Mediterranean under Quarantine in the long 19th century
  • Sarah Green (Helsinki): Locating disease: quarantine and the movement of people animals and plants across the Aegean Sea 


Coffee break

12.00-13.30 Panel: Quarantine and Spaces of Isolation

Chair: Roberta Bivins (Warwick)

  • Christian Promitzer (Graz): Segmented space: pictorial representations of quarantines in the Balkans and in the Middle East (1828-1912)
  • Sevasti Trubeta (Berlin): Vaccination vs. Quarantine? Humanitarianism and Disease Prevention in Contemporary Refugee Camps in Europe


Lunch break 

15.30-17.00 Panel: Biometric Screening and border crossing

Chair: John Chircop (Malta)

  • Nadav Davidovitch (Be’er Sheva): Quarantine in Context: From Mass Immigration to Biosecuritization in Israel
  • Torsten Heinemann (Hamburg/Berkeley): Cellular Migration: DNA Testing and Family Reunification in the United States and Europe
17.30-19.00 Evening lecture

Natalia Molina (University of California, San Diego)

How Does Medicalized Racialization Shape Immigration Policies in the United States? An Answer from the US-Mexico Borderlands, 1848-present

Chair: Sevasti Trubeta (Berlin)


PROGRAM: Saturday, 4 February 2017 10.00-12.00 Panel: National Medical Control to Immigrants: Historical and Comparative perspectives

Chair: Torsten Heinemann (Hamburg/Berkeley):  

  • Sascha Topp (Berlin): Limits of Control - Medical Selection of Migrant Workers in postwar Europe, ca. 1950-1975
  • Roberta Bivins (Warwick): Screening Suspects and Suspect Screening: Illness, Immigration, and the National Health Service in Britain
  • Hani Zubida (Yezreel Valley) and Robin Harper (New York): A Question of Cleanliness/Hygiene, Culture or Nationality? Non-Jewish labor migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Israel



12.30-14.00 Conclusions, Round table: New research perspectives and future networking

The International Conference Border Crossing and Medicine: Quarantine, Detention and Containment in History and the Present (Berlin, 2-4 February 2017) is sponsored by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation / Fritz Thyssen Stiftung and supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the Center for Modern Greece (CeMoG).

Zeit & Ort

02.02.2017 - 04.02.2017

L115, Seminarzentrum der FU Berlin, Silberlaube, Otto-von-Simson-Str. 26, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem