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About this book

Over five centuries, a global archipelago of quarantine stations came to connect the world's oceans from the Mediterranean to the South Pacific, from Atlantic coasts to the Red Sea. In the process, great new carceral structures materialised, many surviving into the present as magnificent ruins or as 5 star hotels with a dark tourism edge.

This book offers new histories and geographies of quarantine islands and isolation hospitals across the world, bringing their local and global pasts and present into view. An international cast of leading experts examine the enduring historical problems of migration and mobility, segregation, prevention and protection by states with different interests in freedoms, health and commerce. With case studies from as far afield as the Red Sea, Hong Kong and New Zealand, and from the early modern period forward, this book provides an invaluable insight into the history of quarantine.

Table of Contents

1. Maritime Quarantine: Linking Old World and New World Histories

From the early modern period, a global archipelago of quarantine stations came to connect the world’s oceans. Often located on islands adjacent to major ports, they multiplied across every large body of water. In the process, great new carceral architectures materialised, many surviving into the present as magnificent ruins – Malta’s Manoel Island, for example. Other quarantine islands have been interpreted in the present by states seeking to sell and tell national stories of triumph over adversity; San Francisco’s Angel Island, or South Africa’s Robben Island, for instance.1 And yet more have been ‘adaptively reused’ as convention centres, exhibition spaces or five-star hotels with a dark tourism edge, as has Sydney’s ‘Q Station’. Such divergent current uses cover a far more consistent past in which these local geographies served remarkably similar purposes, designed to secure both global health and global commerce. Conceptually, geographically and historiographically, this archipelago of quarantine stations links old world and new world histories as surely as the shipping lines and trade routes connected them substantively. And yet scholarship on maritime quarantine tends to remain regionally sequestered. Historians analyse British systems vis-à-vis European systems,2 or quarantine across the Ottoman Empire.3 Historical scholarship on Atlantic and Pacific quarantine has unfolded quite separately again.4 In other instances, it is specific ports, islands or stations that serve as entry points for historians of quarantine.5 The study that best locates quarantine within a global frame and with economic globalisation in mind is Mark Harrison’s Contagion, a sweep across centuries and geographies.6 Yet there is a transoceanic history of quarantine still to be considered, building on the insights of recent maritime histories.
Alison Bashford

Quarantine Histories in Time and Place


2. The Places and Spaces of Early Modern Quarantine

The plague is an indomitable beast. It splits every chain and tramples every defence; it does not value honour, it does not repay kindness, because it does not recognise those things. Instead, it seems to rage more furiously against those who fear it and seek to defend themselves.1 This desperate reflection on the nature of plague and the frustrations of overseeing public health responses was made by Father Antero Maria da San Bonaventura (1620–86) following his service to the sick in the Northern Italian port of Genoa.2 Two centuries had passed since the first systematic development of quarantine in Venice in 1423.3 By the time of Father Antero’s account, following an epidemic in 1656–7, quarantine was commonplace within European public health systems. The Genoese doctor Silvestro Facio (active 1550–96), writing in 1584, noted that areas for purgation or quarantine (purghe o quarantine) were used throughout Italy: all of the ‘princes use and … all of the doctors approve’.4 In fact, in the intervening centuries and those that followed, quarantine had both its defenders and adversaries. Both put pen to paper to debate its function and form. The people of early modern Europe recognised that quarantine did not guarantee lower levels of mortality. 5 The system was notoriously expensive. Some patients thought the confinement to be inappropriate to their social status; others, an unnecessary interruption to their livelihood. Such arguments provide the background for the focus of this chapter: the place of quarantine in public health before the eighteenth century.
Jane Stevens Crawshaw

3. Early Nineteenth-Century Mediterranean Quarantine as a European System

Mrs Major George Darby Griffith, as she called herself in her 1844 travel narrative, faced a daunting journey to England when she returned there with her husband after his stint as a colonial official in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). They travelled by way of the Overland Route, thus experiencing the system of desert posts and hotels between Suez and Cairo designed by Thomas Waghorn in the 1830s. Like many other travellers, the Griffiths were willing to endure the ‘plagues of Egypt’ – the heat and the flies – in order to cut short their trip to Europe by a matter of weeks. Travelling by the Overland Route, as it happened, subjected the Griffiths to engagement with another kind of plague. Alongside travellers on all ships returning from the Middle East or North Africa to Western Europe before about 1850, the Griffiths were detained in quarantine for three weeks before they could continue their journey. Having reached Malta, the boundary of Western Europe, Mrs Griffith felt ‘comparatively at home’ (Figure 3.1). But for her (and for hundreds of thousands of other traders, travellers, soldiers, sailors, chaplains, doctors and colonial administrators who travelled from East to West), the comparative familiarity of Western Europe remained unattained during a long detention: ‘Alas’, she recalled, ‘we were floating under the yellow flag, and thus still without the chain of the European world’.1
Alexander Chase-Levenson

4. Incarceration and Resistance in a Red Sea Lazaretto, 1880–1930

For all intending pilgrims, the desire to go on the Hajj was something that they had nursed throughout their lives. Yet, when the time came to leave for Mecca, they were often beset with fear and anxiety.1 Tales regarding the hardships of the journey were in constant circulation throughout South Asia; one had heard of the pilgrims’ mistreatment by colonial officials, pilgrim brokers or ship officials. What most worried the pilgrims though – especially from the 1880s onwards – was the prospect of an elaborate regime of medical surveillance confronting them from the moment they landed in Bombay. The journey to the holy places might have become quicker after steamships and the Suez Canal, but for pilgrims the experience had become much harsher because of the close association between Indian Hajjis and the global spread of cholera. This association began to be made after the first outbreak in 1865 but had become considerably strengthened by the 1880s. As a result, medical inspections began at the port of Bombay itself, but pilgrims were also subjected to quarantine in the Red Sea. This chapter examines the reactions against such measures, focusing in particular on quarantines between 1880 and 1930. The idea of quarantine in the Red Sea had been discussed for a long time but was imposed for the first time in 1882 on the desolate and sparsely populated island of Kamaran, about 500 miles south of Jeddah. Ships travelling from South Asia and South East Asia were obliged to stop there, with passengers and crew being asked to undergo a thorough medical examination.
Saurabh Mishra

5. Spaces of Quarantine in Colonial Hong Kong

This chapter explores debates about maritime quarantine and isolation in Hong Kong during the 1880s and 1890s in relation to broader British colonial and imperial concerns about borders. In recent years, there has been a new emphasis on histories of mobility across South and Southeast Asia, particularly on the interrelationship between indigenous mobility, state formation and the construction of modern political borders.1 In his account of the delineation of new frontiers in Southeast Asia from the 1860s to the First World War, for example, Eric Tagliacozzo has demonstrated what he calls the ‘paradoxical dynamic’ of boundary production and transgression through contrabanding. His focus is on the creation of a 3000-kilometre boundary between Dutch and British colonial regimes in the Straits of Malacca (Melaka), which made visible particular forms of illicit mobility, even as the ‘wild space’ of the frontier disclosed the vulnerability of colonial rule.2 This chapter likewise contributes to the growing literature on how states see; it considers institutions of quarantine and isolation in relation to the ‘optics of states, especially along frontiers’.3 Although globalisation is often conceptualised in terms of transnational flows, it may also be understood in relation to ‘processes of closure, entrapment, and containment’.4 The emphasis here is on conflicts that arose from simultaneous attempts by colonial agents to promote certain kinds of healthy circulations while impeding other forms of cross-border mobility that were deemed deleterious. In particular, an analysis of the arguments for and against constraints on mobility during a plague epidemic in 1894 serves to demonstrate the diverse factors shaping the imposition and response to quarantine and isolation measures in Hong Kong.
Robert Peckham

6. Quarantine in the Dutch East Indies

For many European inhabitants of the Dutch East Indies, a non- specific but inescapable sense of danger was imperceptibly but pervasively present.1 The threat of disease was often on their minds: before the turn of the twentieth century, afflictions unknown in Europe regularly caused chronic and debilitating disease and death; European settlements were intermittently decimated by epidemics. The indigenous inhabitants of the archipelago greatly outnumbered them, and even though the Javanese were known as the gentlest people on earth, the possibility that this enormous mass of people might turn against their colonisers crossed many a European’s mind at unguarded moments. The alien religious beliefs of the ‘natives’ were also a cause for concern. The Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, was disheartening, partly because it demonstrated and even strengthened the devotion of the indigenous population, and partly because cholera epidemics were not uncommon in the Hejaz (the area where Mecca and Medina are located). Epidemics there were often followed by cholera outbreaks elsewhere, and even though physicians disagreed about the way the disease was transmitted, Muslim pilgrims were implicated by many. Directors and administrators of the many plantations and mines in the Indies, in particular those outside Java, had their own concerns about contagious diseases. They relied almost exclusively on labour imported from regions in China where cholera and plague often wreaked havoc. Chinese ‘coolies’ were essential to the economic success of the Indies – yet their migration to the archipelago exposed it to frightening, and costly, diseases. After the general acceptance of the germ theory by the European population of the Dutch East Indies, fears and apprehension about cholera and plague came to focus almost exclusively on the management and control of three categories of migrants: Muslim pilgrims, indentured labourers recruited in China and natives migrating within the colonies. Special rules and regulations regarding their travel, transportation and quarantine were designed and implemented during the first decade of the twentieth century.
Hans Pols

7. The Empire of Medical Investigation on Angel Island, California

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, quarantine intensified and expanded under the direction of national and imperial state power that harnessed new medical technologies, knowledge and networks. As quarantine regulations instituted national surveillance and gatekeeping nets, they also contributed to the traffic of medical knowledge and monitoring between empire states that regulate human movement and commerce. In the wake of turn-of-the-century cholera and bubonic plague pandemics, the United States federalised port quarantine stations and coupled procedures of passengers’ medical investigation to immigration regulation. US quarantine processes, institutions and personnel proliferated and transmitted medical knowledge that connected both nationally and globally to shape, pressure and inform quarantine procedures worldwide. In the United States, the pre-emptive detention of Chinese, Japanese and other Asian immigrants meant quarantine officers had the opportunity to conduct intensive and time-consuming procedures through body-scanning techniques, specifically the use of microscopic and X-ray technology and diagnostic interpretation to guard national health security. In this Chapter, I address how medical interpretation under quarantine detention made and transmitted knowledge of bodily disability and veracity and, through body-scanning procedures, hardened racial, ethnic and class scrutiny, suspicion and differences.
Nayan Shah

8. Quarantine for Venereal Disease: New Zealand 1915–1918

On 19 July 1916, women were asked to clear the public galleries of the New Zealand House of Representatives in order that war regulations relating to venereal disease could be discussed. The Minister of Health, George Russell, wished to create new regulations aiming to prevent the spread of the disease ‘communicated’, he believed, ‘in lavatories, privies, and barbers’ shops, by the use of towels, the kissing of children, the smoking of infected pipes, and in other ways’.1 By the time of his address, 90 soldiers were already ‘segregated on a certain quarantine station’.2 Just six years earlier, in 1910, the New Zealand Parliament had finally rescinded the 1869 Contagious Diseases Act. The Act was repealed in response to years of pressure from the women’s movement, whose members wanted to see an end to the double standard that allowed the policing of women thought to be prostitutes while their male customers went scot-free.3 In mooting new regulatory measures, the minister of health knew he had to tread carefully in order to quell opposition from women’s groups. Wartime, however, created extraordinary pressures. George Russell proclaimed that he was not the ‘Minister of Morals but the Minister of Health’ and that action was necessary to stem the tide of a disease said to be ‘rampant’ in New Zealand.4 At the time of the outbreak of the First World War, New Zealand had a population of just over 1 million, spread over the two main islands. The furthest dominion within the British Empire from the fields of battle, New Zealanders were nonetheless wholehearted in support of Britain in the Great War.
Barbara Brookes

9. Influenza and Quarantine in Samoa

In 1918, the Samoan archipelago was divided between two polities: American Samoa and Western Samoa. Socially, physically and in terms of traditions regarding health, there was little to distinguish their residents, who had been culturally unified, if politically fractious, up until the partition of 1899. By early 1919, Western Samoa was in chaos, however, and moving towards a state of rebellion against the New Zealand administration. At least 24 per cent of the population had died during the post-war influenza pandemic, nearly all between 18 and 50 years of age. The educational, political and religious elites had been destroyed. The colony was in shock, and in mourning. American Samoa did not suffer directly from the 1918 influenza pandemic. In fact, it was one of the very few polities which avoided any influenza infection at all between 1918 and 1920. They were all island states,1 and yet the other islands spared were in isolated corners of the globe, hundreds of miles from the nearest source of infection.2 American Samoa, by contrast, is a short journey from Upolu, the main population centre of the Samoan archipelago and the site of the globe’s highest mortality rate from the 1918 flu. On a clear day, the two islands can be seen from each other’s shores. Strong social and familial ties bound the two colonies; and travel between them was regular, even commonplace. So how did American Samoa, despite such proximity, avoid influenza in 1918?
Ryan McLane

10. Yellow Fever, Quarantine and the Jet Age in India: Extremely Far, Incredibly Close

In 1977, the historic year when the redoubtable Congress Party in India suffered its first-ever electoral defeat, a small fracas occurred in an airplane that landed at Bombay Airport.1 A group of travellers journeying from Surinam were informed that they lacked immunisation certificates for yellow fever and would be quarantined in a nearby hospital.2 It was reported that the travellers in question resisted, heated exchanges ensued and the situation escalated seriously. Very soon, it was discovered that Brijlal Verma, who was the communications minister in the newly anointed Janata Party cabinet, led the group resisting quarantine.3 His fellow travellers included senior bureaucrats in the tourism and communications departments who had accompanied the cabinet minister on an official visit to Surinam to inaugurate Indian-built telephone exchanges. Despite repeated pleas by quarantine officials in Bombay, when the minister refused to disembark from the plane, it was fumigated and sent onwards to Delhi. Public health officials in Delhi, still unaware of the identity of the passengers, arrived to inspect the aircraft where it had landed, but reported that the minister insisted on staying aboard, refusing to accede to quarantine requests. After more than an hour of dispute, by which time the aircraft missed a scheduled training flight, the entourage agreed to step out into the lounge for ‘VIP quarantine’ at the Delhi Airport, which consisted of ‘air conditioned, specially designed rooms for VIP security’.
Kavita Sivaramakrishnan

Heritage: Memorialising Landscapes of Quarantine


11. Sydney’s Landscape of Quarantine

At North Head, where the entrance to Sydney Harbour is flanked by steep, rocky cliffs, the cultural landscape of quarantine is framed, physically and conceptually, by an evocative and unusual record of people, passage and place. This landscape of the North Head Quarantine Station extends beyond the historical accumulation of buildings and associated infrastructure to encompass areas of adjacent bushland, together with the coastal waters, sea beds and beaches of Spring Cove and Store Beach (Figure 11.1). Stone walls, wire and wooden fences, and metal gates demarcate the material and officially sanctioned boundaries of quarantine (Figure 11.2). Within this bounded space, people have marked the sandstone rocks with inscriptions, both large and small, recording their presence and something of their journeys. In so doing, they have configured and imprinted the landscape with their own conceptions and experiences of the spatial and emotional constraints of quarantine. Carved, scratched or painted, the many hundreds of inscriptions provide a material history that sits in counterpoint to the government records, personal diaries and photographs accumulated in archival collections. These inscriptions, made for the most part by those held in quarantine, form a different sort of collection, one that can be regarded as a set of personal accounts made and left in place. In contrast to ledger books, medical notes, shipping lists and the like, these records, set in stone, have been created and left in situ for others to see and to read. As illustrated both by their profusion and recognisable typologies, they also prompt – or even invite – an ongoing response from others in a way that archival records cannot.1 Unique in and of themselves, each inscription forms a direct physical link to people who otherwise exist only as single line entries, repeated ad nauseam in official archives. Although as texts the individual inscriptions form a visible signature of presence, they also suggest absences and silences: not all quarantine episodes, people, ships, diseases, deaths and events are chronicled in the extant traces of inscription activity. It is the dissonances between presence and absence, archive and sandstone, that we examine in this chapter.
Anne Clarke, Ursula K. Frederick, Peter Hobbins

12. Sana Ducos: The Last Leprosarium in New Caledonia

From 1950, New Caledonia’s largest leprosarium, the Sanatorium Ducos, began to gain recognition throughout the French colonial world. The French journalist, writer and philanthropist Raoul Follereau, whose name the Sanatorium took in 1956, endorsed the institution in his extraordinary book on French global sanatoria, Tour du monde chez les lépreux.1 Follereau wistfully described the beauty of the Pacific site (‘The site is magnificent. A peninsula in the glorious bay of Noumea’); the cleanliness of the patient housing run by the French Sisters of Saint-Joseph-de-Cluny (‘The houses are clean, generally well-kept and decorated with care, a style which is usually the prerogative of fortunate people’); and the unusual and brilliant medical service (‘The medical facilities are remarkable and tribute must be paid to the Health Services for work recently undertaken and particularly to Doctor B … who installed an electrotherapy department in the Ducos laboratory, the only one in the world at the present time’).2 Such utopian depiction was not isolated to ‘the Sana’, as it is still fondly known in New Caledonia. As Follereau’s books demonstrate, all leprosaria of the French colonial world had the apparent capacity to overcome the horror of the disease through attention to care and compassion. Leprosy has been eliminated in New Caledonia, according to World Health Organization criteria.3 Nonetheless, the Sanatorium Ducos remains open today, maintaining a powerfully symbolic role in the territory and combining a complex combination of cultural and theological factors as outlined in Follereau’s description.
Ingrid Sykes

13. History, Testimony and the Afterlife of Quarantine: The National Hansen’s Disease Museum of Japan

On 31 March 2007, a new national museum opened in Higashimurayama, a suburb of Tokyo. Known as the National Museum of Hansen’s Disease, it stands adjacent to Tama Zensho¯en, one of Japan’s still functioning 13 national leprosy sanitaria. The opening ceremony was presided over by Yanagisawa Hakuo, then minister of Health, Labour and Welfare in the first government of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo¯. In his greeting to an audience comprised of journalists, officials, activists, physicians and some former patients, Yanagisawa stated that he hoped that the museum ‘would become a core institution in the dissolution of prejudice and discrimination’. Yanagisawa was followed by Miyasato Mitsuo, the Chairman of the National Conference of Sanitarium Residents (Zenryo¯yo¯jo nyu¯josha kyo¯gikai). Founded in 1951, the National Conference had played an important role in fighting for the repeal of Japan’s Leprosy Prevention Law, which from 1931 had, at least theoretically, required the lifetime confinement of all leprosy sufferers. At one time, the national sanitaria housed more than 12,000 people, one of the largest systems of sustained medical quarantine ever put into practice. This law was repealed only in 1996, four decades after an effective treatment for leprosy had become available. Miyasato used the occasion of the opening ceremony to express his dissatisfaction with the new museum. He declared, ‘The exhibits are entirely inadequate and conceal the shadow of the patients’ own testimony that is like blood spewing forth.’1
Susan L. Burns

14. Citizenship and Quarantine at Ellis Island and Angel Island: The Seduction of Interruption

This chapter reflects on our contemporary love affair with spaces of suspension such as prisons, quarantine facilities and immigration stations. I examine how the success of Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco and Ellis Island in New York, as sites of public history and venues for the performance of contemporary citizenship, depends on their resolution of a long-running political and emotional ambivalence towards movement.1 Drawing together affective conceptions of citizenship, Deleuzian notions of productive desire and recent research within mobility studies, I demonstrate how immigration and quarantine heritage can encourage visitors to become appreciative subjects of a fixed community governed by the state. This is achieved through a seductive staging of interruption symbolised by the figure of the immigrant gazing through the bars to a destination as yet unreached. Interruption, I argue, exemplifies a desire for the state’s existence, a desire which visitors to migration heritage can experience vicariously by imagining themselves as immigrants, as proto-citizens-in-waiting. I explore our fascination with these moments of interruption where the destination (as both geographical location and subject position) is just out of reach and not quite realised. Immigration stations, prisons and quarantine facilities enjoy such popularity as tourist destinations because they capture that point before arrival – an arrival which may very well be ultimately underwhelming. How many immigrants who passed through these places remained? How many, having landed, eventually gave up and retreated home? It is not surprising that inscriptions of longing, hope and suspense are often the main attraction of such sites. They capture the moment before the regret, when there is still so much promise.
Gareth Hoskins
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