Quarantine: Imagining the Geo-body of a Nation

  • Alison Bashford


The long history of the cordon sanitaire and of quarantine practice is tightly bound up with the development of administrative government. The capacity to detain ships, goods and people from elsewhere, in the interests of one’s own city, community or nation both presumed and tightened governmental authorities over commerce, health, and movement: over exchange and circulation. These technologies of government have been centrally concerned with the significance of population and population health to modern states and especially nation-states as they emerged over the nineteenth century. Public health and nationalism are both modern projects connected with the complex emergence of political economy and with the development of liberal democracy and concepts of citizenship. In this chapter I enlarge my focus on cordons sanitaires from analysis of the borders of bodies and urban spaces, to analysis of the connection between national borders and quarantine lines. Nations in the modern period always required mapped boundaries: they needed to be imagined and enforced as ‘geo-bodies’. In Siam Mapped, historian Winichakul Thongchai writes: Territoriality involves three basic human behaviours: a form of classification by area, a form of communication by boundary, and an attempt at enforcing … The geo-body of a nation is a man-made territorial definition which creates effects — by classifying, communicating, and enforcement — on people, things, and relationships’.1


Yellow Fever National Border Commonwealth Department Military Defence Quarantine Measure 
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Copyright information

© Alison Bashford 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison Bashford
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of SydneyAustralia

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