The boundary between the nineteenth-century Orient (as the Near East used to be called) and Europe was the place where cholera was controlled. Various quarantine practices were set up every year in and around the Mecca pilgrimage, because there was constant European anxiety that this mass movement – in a place that is just adjacent to Europe – would introduce cholera into Europe itself. So that boundary, which was not an actual territorial border but, rather, an important part of how Europe defined itself in relation to its most adjacent neighbour, the Orient, was made meaningful through very specific, very grounded, practices of inspecting people, putting them in quarantine camps, and monitoring or restricting their movement. […]

The other fascinating thing about quarantine is that it dreams of being non-porous, but in fact, quarantine lines are always leaky. Quarantine, like today’s passports and visas, is much more about letting some people through and keeping other people out, than enforcing a total border.

An interview with Alison Bashford (Edible Geography)

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