Cholera Quarantine and Territorial Sovereignty in the Age of Imperialism: The Limits of Transnational Governance

Douglas Howland


The movement to create an international policy for cholera quarantine in the nineteenth century necessarily engaged a set of transnational processes: the disease itself; world trade, which passed through the cholera zone of the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea; and the growing territorialization of sovereignty, which raised questions of jurisdiction over ships and their crews and passengers in foreign ports. This essay examines the International Sanitary Conference as a transnational organization and a form of networked governance, as it attempted to establish an international quarantine policy between 1852 and 1892. At its 1881 meeting in Washington, DC, the US hosts attempted to move cholera policy forward by creating systems for the certification of the health of ships and the circulation of information regarding epidemic outbreaks. These efforts failed, and the 1881 meeting of the ISC reveals the limitations of networked governance in the nineteenth century, as collective and transnational policy initiatives ran aground against the growing assertion of exclusive state territory.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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