Biopolitics of public health and immigration in times of crisis: The malaria epidemic in Greece (2009–2014)

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© 2019 Elsevier Ltd That crisis and austerity have a negative effect on public health is well documented. Less attention has been paid on the explosive combination of crisis with xenophobia and the ways racist policies and discourses produce vulnerable bodies, blamed then for their own disease. We study here the 2009 outbreak of malaria in the Evrotas region of Peloponnese, first time since the official eradication of the disease in Greece in 1974. We find that a crucial factor for the outbreak was discrimination against undocumented farm workers excluded from channels of support maintained for Greek citizens. Like Agamben's homo sacer, the state sustains immigrant workers at a threshold of existence, initially invisible then turned into biopolitical targets, scapegoats in a public health emergency. Disease such as malaria is the result of interacting human and non-human ecologies produced in a web of power relations. As such, it can be used symbolically and with political purposes in order to enhance xenophobia and “Othering”. Racism, social vulnerability and disease, we claim, can be mutually reinforcing phenomena particularly during times of socio-economic crisis and austerity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-233
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Biopolitics
  • Crisis
  • Immigration
  • Malaria
  • Public health
  • Racism


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