Alison Bashford is the Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History, University of Cambridge, and fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge. Her first academic position was Lecturer in Women’s Studies at the University of Sydney. In Global Population: history, geopolitics and life on earth (2014), Bashford explores why population and international security histories were connected over the twentieth century. She has since written, with Joyce E. Chaplin, The New Worlds of Thomas Robert Malthus: re-reading the principle of population (Princeton, 2016). Long interested in the history of medico-legal border control, Bashford has recently globalised this project in Quarantine: Local and Global Histories (ed.).
“Contagious Edges: Disease at Continental and Cultural Limits”
Disease prevention might be a novel field for security studies in its international relations guise, but medico-legal border control is hardly new. Traces of bio-security’s long political, cultural, local and international history are everywhere. The starting point for this paper is Sydney’s edge: the old quarantine station on the cliffs of North Head where thousands of rock inscriptions are the literal traces of disease security in the past. The Quarantine Project, based at the University of Sydney, has closely analysed this remarkable material culture assemblage over the last few years. Yet I consider the limits of cultural analysis here as well (including/mainly my own), which often sidestep difficult epidemiological facts in favour of predictable critical readings. After many years of thinking about contagious edges, still the hardest questions remain: What do we do with the fact that drug-resistant tuberculosis (for example) is prevalent in countries to Australia’s north, and not in Australia itself? What if quarantine worked?