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Migration, multiculturalism, and medicalization

As 'immigrant' communities became settled ethnic populations in Britain, policies of assimilation and then integration shifted to those of 'multiculturalism'. All three operated alongside measures which continued to insist on the restriction of inward migration -- and all three, like the operation of Britain's border controls from the 1960s onwards, included elements of medicalisation. Here we will explore the intertwining of discourses of race, health and migration as migrants became citizens. Note that the background readings include comparative examples from a wide range of other geographies.

Required Readings

  • Dora Kostakopoulou, 'Matters of Control: Integration Tests, Naturalisation Reform and Probationary Citizenship in the United Kingdom', Journal of Ethnic & Migration Studies [serial online]. May 2010;36(5):829-846.
  • Evan Smith and Marinella Marmo 'The Myth of Sovereignty: British Immigration Control in Policy and Practice in the nineteen-seventies', Historical Research 87: 236 (May 2014), 344-369. (available from Wiley Jisc via Warwick WebBridge).
  • John Welshman, 'From the Cycle of Deprivation to Troubled Families: Ethnicity and the Underclass Concept', in Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland, eds, Migration, Health and Illness in the Modern World (London: Palgrave, 2013), 174-194. E-Book
  • ARCHIVE DOCUMENTS: please follow the various links below to read a selection of documents that will help us to think about our topics this week, but also about the strengths and limitations of these kinds of sources. Many of these sources are from our very own MRC and come from much larger collections -- you may want to explore a bit of this context too.

No author/organisation, 'The Refugees, Some Facts and Figures', 1945.
Central Office of Information, 'Memorandum on Race Relations', November 1958.
Afro-Asian West Indian Union, 'To the Coloured Citizens of West London' c. 1959.
Afro-Asian West Indian Union, 'To the Citizens of West London' c. 1959.
Race Relations Board, 'A Home of our Own', 1969.
Coventry Carnival Against Racism, Programme, 1979.
National Front, 'How to Spot a Red Teacher and Right Winger newsletters', c. Late 1970s.

Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent, FOWAAD Issue, Feb 1980 (Page 1, Page 2, Page 3)

Sheffield Black Women's Group, 'Racist Attitudes in Hospitals', c. 1981-2.

And if you have time or plan to address this topic in summative work:

  • Nadav Davidovitch, Rakefet Zalashik, 'Medical Borders: Historical, Political, and Cultural Analyses', Science in Context, 19: 3 (2006), pp. 309-316 -- you can find this article via the Proquest database. Read it as a 'taster' for all the different types and historical sites of 'medical bordering'.
  • For the voices of migrants and ethnic minority people at the time (on medicalization and other issues) see texts like Amrit Wilson's Finding a Voice and Beverley Bryan, Stella Dadzie, Suzanne Scafe, Heart of the Race: Black Women's Lives in Britain (recently re-issued: see this blog for more!).

Discussion Questions:

  • Why might medicalization and multiculturalism operate in tandem to regulate 'migrant' and 'ethnic' bodies?
  • How do British approaches to migrant and ethnic communities compare to those of other migrant receiving nations in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries?

Background Readings:

Jordanna Bailkin, Afterlife of Empire, Chapters 4-6.

Brett Bebber, ‘“We Were Just Unwanted”: Bussing, Migrant Dispersal, and South Asians in London’, Journal of Social History, 48:3 (Spring 2015), 635-661.

Roberta Bivins, Contagious Communities: Medicine, Migration and the NHS in Post War Britain, especially Chapter 5 and Chapter 6. E-book. Chapter 5 looks at responses to migrant and ethnic communities through nutrition and diet, Chapter 6 at responses to migrant and ethnic communities in the discourse of race and genetics. Both are pretty long, so do give yourself plenty of time.

Roberta Bivins,'Immigration, ethnicity and ‘public’ health policy in postcolonial Britain', in Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland, eds, Migration, Health and Illness in the Modern World (London: Palgrave, 2013) 126-150. E-Book

Roberta Bivins, 'Ideology and Disease Identity: The Politics of Rickets, 1929-1982', Medical Humanities, 39.2 (Dec 2013).

Roberta Bivins, 'Picturing Race in the British National Health Service, 1948-1988', Twentieth Century British History 2017: doi: 10.1093/tcbh/hww059

Roberta Bivins, ‘"The people have no more love left for the Commonwealth”: Media, Migration and Identity in the 1961-2 British Smallpox Outbreak’, Immigrants and Minorities, 25 (November 2008) 3: 263-289.

Eric Butterfield, ‘The 1962 Smallpox Outbreak and the British Press’, Race & Class, 7 (1966), 347-364.

Ian Convery, John Welshman, and Alison Bashford, 'Where is the Border? Screening for Tuberculosis in the United Kingdom and Australia, 1950-2000', in Alison Bashford (ed.), Medicine at the Border: Disease, Globalization and Security, 1850 to the Present (London: Palgrave, 2006), 97-115.

Nadav Davidovitch, 'Immigration and Body Politic: Vaccination Policy and Practices during Mass Immigration to Israel (1948-1956)', in Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland, eds, Migration, Health and Illness in the Modern World (London: Palgrave, 2013), 151-173.

Yumiko Hamai, ‘“Imperial Burden” or “Jews of Africa”: An analysis of Political and Media Discourse in the Ugandan Asian Crisis (1972)’, Twentieth Century British History 22:3 (2011), 415-436.

Asaf Hussain, ‘The Indian Diaspora in Britain: Political Interventionism and Diaspora Activism’, Asian Affairs 32, no. 3 (2005): 189-208. Talks about ‘colonial syndrome’; draws a distinction between ‘migrant’ groups, which may wish to assimilate, and ‘diaspora’ groups who retain strongest affiliation to countries of origin. Pretty sociological in style, and not fully nuanced, but a useful distinction.

Ruud Koopmans, 'Trade-Offs between Equality and Difference: Immigrant Integration, Multiculturalism and the Welfare State in Cross-National Perspective', Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36:1(2010), 1-26, DOI: 10.1080/13691830903250881

Joe Moran, ‘“Stand Up and Be Counted”: Hughie Green, the 1970s and Popular Memory’, History Workshop Journal, 70 (Autumn 2010), pp.172-98 – a great article reflecting on intersections between the Cold War, British national identities, and popular culture, offering some context for resistance to multiculturalism.

Sitta Reddy, 'Temporarily insane: pathologising cultural difference in American criminal courts', Sociology of Health & Illness, 24 (2002), 667–687. doi:10.1111/1467-9566.00313 E-Journal.

Evan Smith and Marinella Marmo, Race, Gender and the Body in British Immigration Control: Subject to Examination (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2014).

Carolyn Strange, 'Postcard from Plaguetown; SARS and the Exoticization of Toronto', in Alison Bashford (ed.), Medicine at the Border: Disease, Globalization and Security, 1850 to the Present (London: Palgrave, 2006), 219-239.

Miriam Ticktin, 'Medical Humanitarianism in and Beyond France: Breaking Down or Patrolling Barriers?', in Alison Bashford (ed.), Medicine at the Border: Disease, Globalization and Security, 1850 to the Present (London: Palgrave, 2006), 116-135.

John Welshman and Alison Bashford, ‘Tuberculosis, Migration, and Medical Examination: Lessons from History’, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 60 (2006): 282-284.

John Welshman, 'Tuberculosis, “Race”, and Migration, 1950-70', Medical Historian: Bulletin of Liverpool Medical History Society, 15 (2003-04), 36-53.

John Welshman, 'Tuberculosis and Ethnicity in England and Wales, 1950-70', Sociology of Health & Illness, 26 (2000), 858-882.

Amrit Wilson, Finding a Voice : Asian Women in Britain (London: Virago, 1978).

Patrick Zylberman, ‘Civilising the State: Borders, Weak States and International Health in Modern Europe’, in Alison Bashford (ed.), Medicine at the Border Disease, Globalization and Security, 1850-the Present (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006), 21-40.


For images of the Notting Hill Carnival, see