Season 1, Episode 4
Pandemics and Borders
In “Pandemics & Borders”, Aneerudh, a 19-year-old student, decides he will travel to his Canadian university campus for his second year, but faces a stringent travel ban that’s based on border control policies that have troubling colonial origins.
We examine the world’s responses to the Covid19 pandemic, and trace one of the origin points to European colonialism. Particularly the actions of Europe when faced with a devastating cholera pandemic in the 19th century.
Beginning in 1817, seven waves of cholera washed across the world. Tens of millions of people died, but the greatest casualty was in India. So it is little surprise that the harshest measures to curb the disease were also enacted in India. The measures had little to do with improve the public health infrastructure, water or sanitation systems. Rather, they focused on increased surveillance and policing to draw lines between the diseased and the “normal” — sometimes even without proof of disease.
This is the brave new world people in much of the Global South are living in during the Covid19 pandemic as well. The world has segregated into the unvaccinated and the vaccinated, into the Global South and the North, into mostly people of colour and mostly white folks. The former groups are treated with the same restrictions as the diseased.
This wasn’t the case just a short while ago when all the world was waiting for vaccine access; at that time, travel was roughly equally restricted based on RT-PCR tests and quarantine protocols. Now, there are categories of privilege based on vaccine certificates that the World Health Organization says are inequitable.
So, let’s learn what happened in the 19th century and the colonial logics that resulted in border control which are in place even today.
Time Markers (mins: sec)
- 00:12 — Chapter 1: Nightmare at Frankfurt Airport
9:00 — Intro — what the episode is about
10:22 — Chapter 2: Pandemic
12:17 — Story: Cholera outbreak in Jessore
15:47 — Chapter 3: Race
21:14 — Chapter 4: Surveillance
24:00 — Story: Outbreak at the Kumbh Mela
27:25 — Story: Quarantine of Hajj pilgrim at Kamara’an island
30:40 — Chapter 5: Borders (Conclusion)
35:30 — Credits
About IHR. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/ihr/about/en/. Published October 4, 2017. Accessed July 13, 2020.
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