Inventing Maps: Medical Police as Public Space Cartographer, part 3

published at

Mapping out biopathologies in the Athenian city centre – (Greek) society must be defended
The Nazi paradigm and its ostensibly scientific anti-semitism comprise a historically unique phenomenon. The choice to momentarily resort to its thanatopolitical idioms, thereby forming an interpretative framework, comes in full consciousness of the moral and conceptual dangers that it contains. The aim of this choice was not, therefore, to position asymmetrical events onto an axis of historical continuity, nor to attempt to equate heterogeneous phenomena. The Nazi experience offers an exemplary moment in the practices of political denuding, which have been tormenting the present article from the outset. And should there be one thing that forced this article to visit this dystopic world, it would be the intention to briefly ponder over both the terms, the explanations and the interpretations offered by Nazism itself concerning this denuding―as well as those hints revealing that the dystopia in question was gestating as a potentiality already from the moment when modernity arrived. This paradigm should not be allowed, in this sense, to keep to itself―since it ought to suggest interpretations for phenomena historically touching upon the present, if not predominantly for these. The Nazi case stands out there, in its uniqueness. If only it would comprise merely the subject of some carefree literature contemplation. To the contrary, the shadow it casts upon phenomena most relevant to nowadays describe the terms of the contemporary denuding, emerges as some stubborn destiny. The Nazi experience as such belongs exclusively to the past. Nevertheless, we have the right to dismay when we find ourselves faced with processes and phenomena that feature a distant but alarming relationship to that precise past. Understandably, then, Esposito claims that Nazism may had been defeated militarily but imposed itself politically, since the triumphant liberal democracy utilises today, just like then, the same biopolitical vocabulary.[1] Or, to express it in Agamben’s words, allowing ourselves to momentarily delve into his dark diagnoses: “in modern democracies it is possible to state in public what the Nazi biopoliticians did not dare to say”.[2]
The Nazi paradigm offers the opportunity for an invaluable study into biopolitical denuding and its necessary supplement―that is, the politicisation of the naked biologicality; as such, we ought to hear out its lessons, should we wish to sufficiently comprehend certain facets of the contemporary biopolitical condition. The complete rendering of the biological element into a political meaning, even if seemingly comprising a Nazi novelty, does not unfortunately allow us to nowadays conceive it as some exclusivity held by the Nazis. The technologies used then, both in their technique and in their political meaning, are considered anything but obsolete today. Which is why we ought to worry. Since, as Elden writes, “it is not the techniques, the technologies of the state, that parallel. It is the essence of these technologies, their conditions of possibility”.[3] And these conditions, as conditions of modernity’s potentiality―and by extension, of the contemporary state―have become more widespread and more implicit today. From contemporary biometric practices and new biotechnologies to the urgent meanings acquired by the notion of public health, to the role held by bioethical matters in our understanding of our social existence, the naked biopolitical backdrop of the human constantly returns to the fore of political production―reminding us it anything but retired after Nazism’s end. “The knot binding politics and life together…”, warns Esposito, “…which totalitarianism tightened with destructive consequences for both, is still before our eyes”.[4] The immunitary obsession, which proved to be so decisive in the devising of the Nazi extermination plan, invested heavily upon this knot. And we ought to understand that much before the immunisation logic took the form of those well-known medical interventions and settings that rendered it more popular, practical and intelligible, it had attempted to articulate and to safeguard itself juridically. An attempt described, for example, in the well-known positions of the jurist Karl Binding and the psychiatrist Alfred Hoche concerning the case of individuals with psychological illnesses and/or mental incapacities,[5] and through the Nuremberg Laws concerning the case of the Jews.[6]
We therefore return to the dual semantic framework shown above, both through the brief reference to the notion of the crisis and through the absolute match of politics and biology in the thanatopolitical context of Nazism. We return, in other words, to the parallel medical and juridical function of the framework in question. The demand for a complete juridical denuding of the Jews had already been articulated, as Taguieff shows us, since the end of the 19th century. What the socialist and anti-semitic philosopherEugen Dühringproposed back then, for example, was nothing but a “…demand for the exclusion of Jews from the national quality of the citizen―either by ‘shutting the door on them’, or by denaturalising them as citizens in the countries where they had become so”.[7] And Taguieff reminds us that it was processes like this one that gradually paved the way to the extermination of the Jews. We may very well daze ourselves, then, once we identify the tremendous similarities between the paradigm in question and the environment rendering migrant and refugee populations immobile in the contemporary biopolitical dystopias today, presented as they were in the first part of this article. In the first case, we find ourselves faced with the typical, meticulous process of de-humanisation and demonisation that pushes the Jews into that dark extra-juridical sphere. In the second case, this pre-required demonising function is undertaken with quite some consistencyby the contemporary and more sophisticated racist discourses. Yet the relationship of migrants to the processes of de-politicisation is proven to be even more complex today. Trapped as they are in-between humanism and racism, they are exiled from the beneficial juridical world―sometimes due to a surplus of the “human” and other times through the force applied by the symbolisms of the “subhuman”. In either case, these two conceptual mechanisms of meaning jointly contribute to the radical juridical denuding of refugee and migrant populations, proving that the populations in question ought, in either case, to live stranded in their literal biological positions.
We then return to the point where we started from. Back at those shiploads full of pure and intact humanness. The naked biologicality that uncontrollably wanders around the turbulent seas nowadays represents the denaturalised or pre-political life par excellence. And this elemental denuding comprises the prerequisite for the operation of the contemporary mechanisms of extermination that guarantee the safeguarding and the defence of (neo)liberal Europe. Some safeguarding that, next to its military stakes, is nowadays ever-increasingly articulated in bio-medical terms―proving that it comprises the primary field upon which some elemental facets of the contemporary immunitary obsession are tried out. “Moving from the realm of infectious diseases to the social realm of immigration confirms this”, writes Esposito. “The fact that the growing flows of immigrants are thought […] to be one of the worst dangers for our societies also suggests how central the immunitary question is becoming”.[8] These anonymous extra-juridical figures do not wander therefore around only as biological literalisms but as biological threats as well. And so biology hereby acquires a new urgent meaning. Not as the unconditional bearer of natural rights, but as the dangerous bearer of contagious diseases. A meaning urgently reinserting it into the fields of juridico-medical management by ways that include much more than the mere age estimation tests mentioned earlier on.
These naked biologicalities, exposed and voiceless, prove to be―as we saw in the article’s first part, woefully vulnerable in face of interpretations and meanings―this time round rushing to safeguard whatever legitimacy, not from humanitarian rants but from the sciences of life. Nosology may nowadays not invest, neither ideologically nor explicitly, upon the rhetoric of degenerating dangers, yet it has nevertheless managed to contribute toward the production of a particular symbolic and conceptual framework and a particular set of images, both of which render migration an object of medical problematization. And furthermore, through the increased capacities for movement offered by the globalised world,[9] the discourse concerning the disease and its metaphors forms both a new framework for meaning-assignment of the nation-state as much as those conditions that re-legitimise and affirm the description of the latter in organic unity terms.[10] In this way, epidemiology becomes “a form of reasoning”,[11] through which both the phenomenon of migration as well as the very notions of nation and race are problematised. And sure enough, border lines take on, as Bashford showed us, a crucial juridico-medical function―proving that the conceptualisations of the nation pass through the conceptualisations of health and disease, and vice versa.[12]
At the borders then, at those vulnerable openings of the national body, the management of naked biologicality is not only involved in swift age estimation procedures, but in a whole array of hygienic technologies as well, which contribute to the constitution of a clinical image of the nation―since, as Mitropoulos points out, the issue of contagious diseases urgently turns into a national security issue.[13] Once again, then, bio-medical tools―but first of all, bio-medical meanings―will be employed with the aim of (re)constructing national identity and national integrity. Some integrity that ought to articulate itself both in spatial and in hygienic terms. The incentive for such an articulation in the context of the Greek particularity was taken on, in 2011, by the then minister of health Andreas Loverdos. Citing public health dangers and attempting to describe the materialities of the migratory flows in terms of a hygienic threat, he urgently invited teams of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and of the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to hygienically examine the migrant populations that remained incarcerated in Evros’ detention camps.[14] The aim of this call was clear enough: by describing the issue of migration as an urgent public health issue (with the notion of the “public” hereby being expressed in terms of national homogeneity, that is, in terms of a threat to the Greek population) and safeguarding some rough clinical expressions, he would legitimise both the practice of confinement in contemporary concentration camps as a necessary and effective border policy and the fierce police operations as a necessary measure for the management of migrants in the interior of Greek metropolises. The intention to pathologise the issue of migration drew its ambitions and whatever legitimacy it may have held from the same tank supplying the required meanings both to the hygienic understanding of the nation-state and to the scientific anti-semitism of late modernity. And this does not, by any means, cause any surprise.
What did cause surprise―first of all, to Loverdos himself―were the conclusions of the field research conducted by the WHO and the ECDC. According to the relevant report issued in May the same year, there was no indication whatsoever that the “hygienic status” of migrants who cross the Greek-Turkish border may comprise any threat for diseases to be spread in the wider area―and in particular, any “threat for the health of the Greek population”. To the contrary, what the research clearly revealed were the severely lacking hygienic conditions characterising the detention camps themselves, and it held those conditions responsible for any likely future hygienic matter.[15] The conclusions of the report in question therefore resemble the familiar cyclical movement characterising a series of historical examples―and they unavoidably de-essentialise, in a way, the arguments of whatever scientific-like xenophobic rhetoric. This cyclical movement, as a trick skilfully moving between cause and effect in ways that renders the two unclear, unexpectedly turns the result into cause. And it manages to articulate the matter of the imposed social conditions as an organic essence―essentialising, eventually, whatever result and abruptlyplacing it at the beginning of the relevant train of thought. And so, the very conditions migrants are forced to live confined, here in Greece, form the environment that causes them to fall ill to a degree, thereby turning them into what they are accused of being.[16] “Tubercular Afghans, for example, did not come from Afghanistan with tuberculosis―the illness broke out here, due to their detention conditions”, argues Yannis Mouzalas on behalf of the organisation Doctors of the World.[17] Starting from the end, Loverdos’ hygienic-racist arguments therefore bypass this causal relationship, presenting the potentially ill migrants as the point zero of a threatening spread and offering the raw material for a self-fulfilling prophecy.
One could claim that this cyclical mechanism resembles, to a great extent, the observations of the anthropologist Michael Taussig on the primary function of the colonial mirror. It is a fact that “people delineate their world, including its large as well as its micro-scale politics, in stories and story-like creations”. It is through these everyday, convenient story-telling that the strengthening of ideologies is achieved, which in this way “enter into active social circulation and meaningful existence”.[18] Thus, explains Taussig, the cultures of terror are formed, which act as a formidable sovereignty tool (or as cultures of sovereignty). The use of terror and the “cultural processing of fear” through simple narrative and mythological mechanisms, as constitutive elements of the problematising of the Other transformed, according to Taussig, the colonised into objects of cultural production. And so for example, his study of the Putumayo natives shows how narratives concerning the “savageness” of the natives formed a near-objective and trustworthy reality which allowed the colonisers to exercise some ferocious violence against them; in this way legitimising an inverse savageness which was entirely real this time round.[19] This case shows how the formation of a sovereign culture presupposes the meticulous processing of fear, which in our days opts to methodically utilise the presence of migrants―sometimes following criminological and other times, nosological narrative schemas.[20] In the example that concerns us specifically, biomedical arguments are utilised in order to in return prove the inherent danger posed by migrants on the basis of some supposedly absolute otherness―this time articulated through forms of morbidity, not savageness. Some morbidity that is constructed first of all in narrative and mediatic terms. But it is the very conditions of detention in the concentration camps that allow this line of argumentation to transcend the level of a limited, fragile and questionable narrative construction―since their results can potentially turn, to an extent, whatever mythological hypotheses into a whole of fully verifiable clinical events. The mirror potentially operating in this case can therefore do so while meticulously concealing its reflective operation.
In the swirl of this cyclical movement, what remains at stake is the pathologising of the migratory flows and the construction of their medical depiction. And it is evident that such depiction would require being both systematic and meticulous. It would be the narratives themselves, then, that would have to become systematic―taking on the appropriate mediatic expressions and asserting vividness through the everyday experiences and images that would unfold during their very own narration. These narratives became, eventually, an extremely powerful tool of anti-migrant propaganda, succeeding in creating a state of emergency and an advantageous field for intervention as such; ensuring, at the same time, the preconditions for the effectiveness of this very intervention. In order to therefore understand the function of this choice and to sketch out the form of its systematic nature, it would be worth pondering, at this point, over some of its crucial moments―by putting together an elementary chronicle. In June 2011, only a few months after the visit of the WHO and ECDC teams in Evros, Loverdos would claim―from the UN podium during the High-Level Meeting on AIDS―that in Greece HIV concerns, to a large extent, women prostitutes from Africa.[21] He said at the time: “During the past year and into the first months of 2011, we recorded a significant increase in new HIV/AIDS cases. Many of these concerned women from the sub-saharan Africa who were brought into the country illegally and forced into prostitution. For us, it is evident that problems of this kind can only be tackled through closer international collaboration”.[22] According to the doctor-pulmonologist and member of Act Up Hellas Chrysa Botsi, who was present at that UN meeting, Loverdos attempted to specifically target female sex workers from Africa for political purposes―purposes that would reveal themselves before too long.[23] And he did not hesitate in questioning even the official data of the Epidemiological Reports of the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention (HCDCP), which had already been published and were therefore fully accessible to his discussants.[24]
Yet Loverdos was careful not to leave his construction to chance. He came back to the issue in December the same year during a one-day conference that was organised in Athens under the topic of public health promotion. There, he once again attempted to target female sex workers, labelling them a major issue for public health―and once again in spite of the official epidemiological data. He mentioned that “unregistered prostitution and its connection to the issue of the spread of AIDS is a major problem for the city”, openly arguing this now concerned the Greek family, since the transmission takes place “from the illegal migrant woman to the Greek client, to the Greek family”.[25] He suggested that all female carriers of the virus should be deported for this reason. In this particular construction Loverdos practices those well-known understandings that link migration to hygienic matters, applying tried and tested schemata of the biologisation and pathologisation of the Other. And using the safeguards offered to him by the dominant patriarchal meanings he utilises the field of female sex work in particular in order to construct the image of a biological enemy within; to construct, in other words, only one of the crucial “testing grounds” upon which the reconstruction of national unity will be attempted during this difficult time of crisis―and the nation-rebuilding this requires. Yet in a way, the construction in question is novel. And its novelty lies in the fact that it does not follow the usual moralistic problematisation of ―often times forced―sex work, nor of the purchasing of sexual services as some “dangerous” male fleshly habit. What it attempts instead is a racial targeting of a segment of the female sex workers. Some targeting that seems ironic should one bring to mind that from the early 90s on, a considerable part of the dominant masculine culture in Greece was constituted precisely upon the sexual exploitation of migrant women and their endless services.
Nearly three months later, the 9th Panhellenic Conference of Public Health and Health Services was held in Athens, co-organised by the HCDCP and the National School of Public Health under the telling title: “Greeks’ health in light of the new epidemics”. From the content of the Press Conference that took place on March 22 ahead of the conference in question―and from its title itself―it becomes clear that the notion of public health is hereby conceived strictly in terms of national identity and national homogeneity. Yet it is not merely the normative use of that abstract “us” that makes this conception appear justifiable in written language. The relevant Press Release rushed from the outset to rectify and to conceptually construct the position of this “us”―describing it within the whirl created by the migrant flows and their hygienic stakes. This is, then, an “us”-in-danger, a danger therefore reconstructing this “us”. “The ever-increasing population movement observed in recent years brings to the fore infectious diseases that had almost been forgotten, while “diseases” such as AIDS, with a history of more than thirty years, now take on new tendencies”.[26] The notion of public health is in this way problematised through the phenomenon of migration―and the editors of the press release in question make sure to clarify this from the beginning. The required landscape of emergency is formed in this way and the final ideological touches are put just before the medical-police units take to the streets. The hygienic validation of the population displacements that would be undertaken a few days later was now a fact.
This is how we reach April 1st, 2012. During a joint press conference with Michalis Chrisochoidis, then minister of public order, Loverdos announced “the compulsory hygienic examination of the entire migrant population”. The same announcements included a regulation concerning the migrant concentration camps, the introduction of a compulsory health certificate for migrants, the setting of limitations to the employment of individuals suffering from infectious diseases, a phone line for the reporting of residencies where “illegal migrants are piled up”, and the setting of strict requirements for the spaces where migrants may reside.[27] On the same day, the renown Public Health Decree 39A (Government Gazette no. 1002/Β/2012) was published under the title “Arrangements Concerning the Restriction of the Transmission of Infectious Diseases”[28]. This comprises, in essence, the materialising of all the commitments taken up by the two ministers. Yet it comprises a nightmarish Decree in terms of its content―signalling terrifying transformations both at the level of medical ethics and at the level of police responsibilities. What is of particular interest in this Decree is the unprecedented insistence upon the strict requirements that must be met by the houses where migrants reside―rendering both the hygienic and the police mechanisms the most appropriate for their control.[29] The Decreein question therefore comprises, among other things, a manual for the surveillance of private spaces; describing pre-requisites and standards in detail and assigning the medical police units an unprecedented task. It would therefore make sense for us to ponder over this novelty, since it paves the way for a tremendous transformation and widening of police applications themselves―but one that maintains, as we shall see, its own spatial importances.
In this way, we stand before an unprecedented demand for an expansion of the anti-migratory operations from the public realm, where they would traditionally limit themselves, to that of the private. A demand that describes, in the most murky and at the same time the most explicit and chilling of ways, the transformations caused by the crisis as a structural moment for (neo)liberal politics and as a condensation of the divisions that characterise the functions of the nation-state from the outset, as Stoler showed us. The hygienic pretexts used for the legitimisation of this operation confirm what Athanasiou had pointed out: that “the ultimate refuge of neoliberal politics is the return upon the political anatomy of the body: the governance of the body in danger and the governance of the dangerous body”. Since, as she adds, “the medicalisation of the crisis was always a symptom of totalitarianism”.[30] In light of these symptoms, one could also observe that the new responsibilities and the new object of the medical police have some terrifying similarities to those of the “anachronistic” disciplinary authority that Foucault identified at the conjuncture of the two great imaginaries of death that haunted western thought: leprosy and plague. They therefore resemble those authorities exercising, as the French philosopher points out, an entirely a(na)tomic control and “function according to a double mode; that of binary division and branding (mad/sane; dangerous/harmless; normal/abnormal); and that of coercive assignment, of differential distribution (who he is; where he must be; how he is to be characterized; how he is to be recognized; how a constant surveillance is to be exercised over him in an individual way, etc.)”.[31]
The appeal to these hygienic schemata has its own political parallelsand intentions. It forms, in other words, a particular political framework and it does not merely legitimise, but it first and foremost renders intelligible the use of a particular array of emergency juridico-political technologies. As Foucault writes, “in order to see perfect disciplines functioning, rulers dreamt of the state of plague”, and he adds that “[i]n order to make rights and laws function according to pure theory, the jurists place themselves in imagination in the state of nature”.[32] This juridical imaginary is anything but a coincidence since, as Agamben shows us, the notion of the state of nature holds a crucial function within the syntax of the philosophical establishment of the state and its disciplines. Regarding the use of the notion by him who revealed more than anyone else about it, he writes: “Hobbes, after all, was perfectly aware […] that the state of nature did not necessarily have to be conceived as a real epoch, but rather could be understood as a principle internal to the State revealed in the moment in which the State is considered ‘as if it were dissolved’ (ut tanquam dissoluta consideretur)”.[33] The conceptual presence of the state of nature in the discourse over the defence of the state is entirely utilitarian and may only be conceived in the framework of a primary ideological mission.
The state of nature, as the ostensibly absolute externality of the law, “is therefore not truly external to nomos but rather contains its virtuality”.[34] Agamben points out in this way that whatever positive law there might be, lives off this externality in the same way that the rule, according to Schmitt, lives off the exception. And this is where the political importance of this appeal to nosological representations of the state of nature lies. The state of nature, which returns in the form of the plague or the “hygienic bomb”, acts first and foremost as an ideal extra-juridical form, necessary for the formation of law. And through these functional returns it is shown that “what then appears (at the point in which society is considered as tanquam dissoluta) is in fact not the state of nature (as an earlier stage into which men would fall back) but the state of exception”.[35] In other words, the artificial and extortionate presence of this “morbid” state of nature at the heart of the political imaginary at stake establishes, as Benjamin would say, law―in the same way that the exception gives shape to the rule. By narratively and ideologically constructing the image of a hygienic threat and the profile of a crisis and a violent rupture to the continuum of (Greek) public health, the imposing figure of the necessity is constructed, which makes law―and its suspension―appear entirely explainable. This artificial state of nature makes sure to shed light onto the ways of the emergency, making sure to first of all safeguard the terms for a particular extension to the responsibilitiesof the executive power. Under these terms, the latter is rendered a tool of some perhaps indirect yet “emergency law-making”.[36]
Hygienic Decree 39Α constitutes exactly a terrifying version of such an emergency law-making operation. The planning and the announcements of a medical-police staff acquired, in the context of this decree, a clear legal articulation. Ten days later, Law 4075 would be published: the 59th article of this contains additional regulations on the one hand concerning the detention of citizens from third countries who have submitted an application for international protection, and on the other, the terms for the administrative deportation of migrants―both of which are concerned with public health matters. It comprises an exemplary articulation of the demands of the new medical police, which constitutes a further juridical enforcing of the hygienic anti-migratory narrative in which Loverdos had started to exercise himself already a year earlier. On April 26, 2012, a relevant Press Release by the Greek Police HQ announced that “checks have commenced in flats of Athens where large numbers of migrants reside”.[37] These checks were taking place on the basis of the new measures that had just been announced by the ministers of health and public order, essentially comprising the most self-evident solution to the problem they themselves had narratively and ideologically constructed. More specifically, and following information by citizens, police raids took place in residencies that―according to the Press Release―comprised “sources of infection due to the residence of an excess number of migrants”. Tens of individuals were “examined by the doctors of the HCDCP who participated in the joint teams, in order to find out whether they carry infectious or other transmissible diseases”.[38] Nevertheless, none of the relevant Press Releases mentioned the results of the medical examinations to which the migrants were subjected, proving the character of the hygienic calls as a mere pretext―and their distancing from any real epidemiological picture. To the contrary, what is most real is the nightmarish expansion of the powers of the executive power; an expansion that is articulated at different levels. First of all, at the level of legislative powers. Second, at the level of the content of the very object of police applications. And finally, at the level of the conceptualisation of space, since a demand is officially articulated for the expansion of the responsibilities of the executive power from the public into the private sphere. In the examples in question, we are not dealing with “stop & search”, but with “raid & search” operations―the prime question of which is the transformation of the very notion of public space for police science.
During those same days, medical-police checks would start at the hang-outs of female sex workers and brothels. As we saw, Loverdos’ narrative constructions comprised from the outset of two different, even if not always discreet, “dangerous” parts, which concerned both the world of migration and the world of the sex work; both defined, to a large extent, in strict gendered terms. In parallel, then, to the raids in the homes of migrants conducted by the police, checks commenced in areas where female sex workers were active.[39] On April 27, the HCDCP and the Greek police would issue Press Releases, announcing that as part of the recently published hygienic decree, and during checks conducted in parts of the centre of Athens, one female migrant worker in an illegal brothel was found to be HIV positive.[40] Controlling from the outset those terms of public discourse that would allow him to pretend to be prophetic, Loverdos would rush to announce that “the hygienic bomb of AIDS is no longer inside the migrants’ ghetto, as was the case until recently; it has now escaped the ghetto”.[41] Yet what happened next totally contradicted the minister, proving that his statements were not characterised by any prophetic quality; to the contrary, they were meticulously constructing a field of police-political intervention, attempting to pathologise a priori the presence of migrants in Greece. The overwhelming majority of women arrested as part of this medical-police and sexist operation held Greek citizenship, were informally working as sex workers and were users of intravenous drugs, revealing an issue Loverdos did not want to see―but which was evidently articulated through the official epidemiological data. It was revealing, in other words, the fact that the renown increase in HIV cases was related, among others, to the cuts in health provisions and the transformations that were rapidly taking place in the field of social welfare, due to the economic crisis.[42] Nevertheless, Loverdos greatly utilised the field he himself constructed, pointing where he wanted to. That first arrest of a female migrant sex worker comprised the point zero in operations that would continue for weeks, their well-known result being the humiliation and pre-trial detention of 27 seropositive women. On the eve of the crucial national elections of May 6th, 2012, Loverdos and Chrisochoidis were convinced that the time had come for their ideological construction to produce its political surplus value. The first one, by showing off complacently the evidence of a unique diagnostic capability. The second one, by filling up the additional concentration camps that he himself had built.
Even before the dust around the tragic incident in question had settled, the medical police would once again take to the streets. Even though the relevant ministerial positions had been taken up by new people by that time, the anti-migratory operations continued apace―and with greater intensity, even. It was the 3rd of August when approximately 2,500 police were mobilised in Evros and another 2,000 in Athens as part of the Xenios Zeus operation, “for the repulsion of illegal migrants from the borderline and their removal from the centre of the capital”.[43] This was a gigantic operation that, according to the police spokesman at the time, “takes place in our country for the first time and which will continue in the future”. The statement’s style was liminal and urgent. Presenting the matter of “illegal” migrants as a “matter of national necessity and survival”, the police spokesman made a commitment for the upgrading in the life quality in the wider area of the centre of Athens. The so-called “centre of Athens” took on a very particular ideological mission in these statements―one that, as we shall see later on, may only be conceived through the design of the new public security dogma; the notion of “public security” hereby describing both the various facets of public order and the problematisations of public health. This is the materialisation of a meticulous and patient pogrom, one that gradually turned into a constitutive element of public space itself―and its conceptualisations. “Anyone who is identified, whether on foot or moving via any medium of transportation, will be detained in the detention centres, where they will be held temporarily, until their return to their country of origin”, the Greek police spokesman would state characteristically.[44] Until February 23, 2013, which was also the last time when the Greek police published the number of detentions as part of the operation in question, 84,792 migrants had been officially detained.[45] The police announcements were no meretricious exaggeration. The “Xenios Zeus” operation continues in central parts of Athens to date, having led to the arrest of 5,611 migrants in total who “did not meet the legal criteria for their stay in the country”.[46]
Nevertheless, what is daunting anew in the scale and the quality of the operation in question is the systematisation of the violations of what we would previously call private space, affirming that the so-called public space was once again proven insufficient for the ambitions of the medical police―thereby urgently and ironically demanding a spatial and conceptual expansion. Raids in residences, as tried out in the April operations, would then reach their climax and become systematic as part of the “Xenios Zeus” operation, turning migrants’ private spaces into lobbies for the concentration camps. A transformation that appears as a logical extension of the political and juridical denuding that the figure of the migrant and the refugee in Greece has been subjected to from the outset. And which is entitled to claim its own special position in the tradition of those technologies of confinement which, as Arendt writes, “were no penal institutions and that their inmates were accused of no crime, but that by and large they were destined to take care of ‘undesirable elements,’ i.e. of people who for one reason or another were deprived of their judicial person and their rightful place within the legal framework of the country in which they happened to live”.[47] Let us not forget, after all, that when attempting to examine the origins of the juridical basis of confinement in concentration camps, Agamben traces back to a juridical institution of Prussian origin called Schutzhaft (literally, protective custody), which was often described by the national-socialist German jurists “as a preventative police measure insofar as it allowed individuals to be ‘taken into custody’ independently of any criminal behavior, solely to avoid danger to the security of the state”.[48]
It is in this exact context, then, that we ought to conceive migrants’ everyday private spaces as extensions of the concentration camps. Residencies which turn into biopolitical spaces par excellence, to the extent that the notions of public and private co-reside―as Agamben would have it―in a zone of absolute indistinction, in the sense that the place offering refuge to corporality and its needs becomes an object of forced public exposure. The framework that renders the private sphere an advantageous place for the application of that preventative police measure was demarcated through the emergency appeals of the police spokesman, concerning the “national necessity and survival”. The infringement of the traditional dichotomy between public/private and this absolute exposure of the migrant subject to the public light and to the police gaze constitute the essentialcondition of the concentration camp. And this is what is applied in the raids in question. It is a typical case of applying and extending the idioms of the “emergency”. Where the limits of the law are redefined along with the limits of the space. Where the “inside” and the “outside”―whether concerning law or space―become indistinguishable. A new habitual culture is imposed through this absolute indistinguishability, on the one hand concerning the intimate sphere of the oikos and on the other, the public space of the city. As Stavros Stavrides points out, “the logic of the exception is metastatic. Like police blocks, it is everywhere. A new model of urban governance is produced which, even if still applied in exceptional conditions, is applied everyday, in common conditions, in places that edify a new urban experience”.[49]
A new model of urban governance then, one that is tried out even in the most common and everyday spaces of the migrants: in their very own residencies. The police spokesman is illustrative in this regard: “we identify, in the presence of prosecuting authorities, the flats where tens of illegal migrants reside under unacceptable hygienic and security conditions”.[50] The typical hygienic pretext of the anti-migrant campaign therefore worked out once again as a trojan horse, in order for doors to be violated and for ample light to be shed on the dark spaces of “morbidity” and “infectiousness”. A hygienic discourse, then, that tests out limits. Whether these involve hygienic quarantines, the sealing of borders, or the violation of private spaces, the question of health draws limits and subject positions, forming both the terms of national unity and public order as such. Which is why health observers participated in the raids.[51] And which is why the operation in question commenced with the support of the HCDCP.[52] Up until February 14, 2013―which was the last time when the Greek police issued a Press Release with any reference to the number of house searches―528 such raids had taken place.[53] The teamsof the health police are therefore trained in shifting these spatial-juridical limits, rendering raids into private spaces an entirely normalised police practice. According to Chrysa Botsi, the hygienic legislation and the legislative mechanisms would always hold relationships primarily with the sector of justice, and much less so with the police. Nevertheless, as she claims, it is only recently that such operations appeared and with such depth.[54] A development that can only worry us, judging from the similarities that it holds to that absolute thanatopolitical paradigm of the 20th century, as this was described above, and shivering before the image composed by handcuffs and white aprons combined. “The knot binding politics and life together […] is still before our eyes”.[55]
We reach, in this way, the final stop of this brief overview; right at the end of September 2012. In medical websites and bourgeois newspapers, identical articles are published concerning the composition of the first hygienic and epidemiological map of Athens by the HCDCP.[56] According to the medical website Iatropedia, “for the first time, a research-mapping of the city of Athens was attempted and completed, with the HCDCP creating the hygienic and epidemiological map of the capital. […] Even if there is no complete epidemiological study to date that would offer trustworthy responses and statistical data concerning the impact or even the prevalence of infectious diseases among migrants in Greece, whether legal or illegal, the findings of the medical examinations in Athenian neighbourhoods that contain many migrants have revealed some extremely disconcerting findings”.[57] The articles in question do not constitute a mere description of the field researchthat was conducted and continues to be conducted in the centre of Athens by the HCDCP. They have obvious political intention and attempt to rejuvenate, by feeding it with scientific-like arguments, the anti-migrant construction that had pathologised migrant populations in Greece already from mid-2011. They do not concern, then, the recording of the spread of infectious diseases in Athens in general, but specifically how migrants are involved in this supposed spread. And the revealing/construction of this involvement was, as we saw, a state choice from the outset. As is characteristically pointed out in a relevant article of the newspaper Ta Nea, “the study focused upon areas of the capital that contain many migrants”.[58] And as one would expect, the study in question includes extended references to sex work―this time in male one, too[59]―proving how the then minister of health Andreas Lykourentzos―who is the one that passed on, according to the articles in question, the study to the parliament―received Loverdos’ construction unquestionably and rushed to reinforce it. “The epidemiologists’ analyses showed that the most common way of contagion is unprotected sexual intercourse”, the article in question would characteristically write concerning HIV. But also, for Sexually Transmitted Diseases, the outcomes were indicative: “These numbers are attributed both to the increase of male and female prostitution (legal or not) as well as to the great inflow of migrants without legal documents and without vaccination coverage in the countries of origin”.[60]
These articles professed a crystal-clear responsibility of the migrant populations in regard to the spread of infectious diseases in the centre of Athens, with emphasis on the HIV.[61] “The hygienic epidemiological danger posed by the migrant phenomenon is shown vividlyfrom the HCDCP’s research-mapping out”, the newspaper Kathimerini[62]wrote at the same time, carrying on the familiar narrative, the main arguments of which had collapsed, as we saw, already from that visit of the WHO and the ECDC at the detention centres of Evros. Yet beyond this resounding rebuttal, the most effective way for one to be convinced of the constructability of the data composing the discourse in question is to refer to the official epidemiological data published by HCDCP itself for the year 2012. The Epidemiological Bulletin of that year showed then, in regard to the HIV, what had already been shown in the case of the prosecution of the seropositivewomen, which had not yet been forgotten at that point, since most of them remained in pre-trial detention. It was the first time since the appearance of the HIV virus in Greece that intravenous drug users (IVDU) comprised the population group with the largest number of HIV infection recordings. According to the HCDCP’s Epidemiological Bulletin for 2012, “2011 saw a dramatic increase in HIV infection among users of intravenous drugs. Comparing the recorded cases among the IVDU population in 2011 with the corresponding one in 2010, an increase is shown of approximately 1600%. In 2012, HIV infections among IVDU doubled […]. For the first time in 2012, from the outset of the epidemic in Greece, IVDU comprise the population group with the largest number of recorded HIV infections”.[63] Yet in the media articles in question, which took upon themselves to inform readers about this mapping out, and which most probably also reproduced some relevant information bulletin of the ministry of health, there is no reference to the IVDU whatsoever; and this, for two main reasons. On the one hand, such a reference would call upon the institutions of the ministry of health, which were invoking this “map”, since they would have to explain themselves for the cuts in social welfare services that had been imposed long ago, and which are the ones that led to the tremendous increase of HIV cases from 2010 on.[64] On the other hand, the primary aim of these made-up map recordings was to construct a dangerous hygienic profile for migrants, and not to reveal the HIV spread among the IVDU population―the majority of which are of Greek citizenship.[65] And this proves that this was a discourse that commenced with ready-made and specific conclusions. A set of articles that utilised a set of disparate epidemiological data, assigning them a certain identity and reinforcing anew the dominant anti-migrant discourses.[66]
Let us recall at this point that the HCDCP had already announced its intention to map out the areas and the migratory populations of central areas of Athens, with the Press Release issued on April 25, 2012, in which it announced the putting into practice of the Hygienic Decree 39Α.[67] That is, with the medico-police teams in the streets, with house raids and with obligatory hygienic checks. Nevertheless, the ever-so-obvious disparity between the official epidemiological data and the supposed cartographic findings of the articles in question sparked the interest for a personal research regarding the standing and the intentions of the latter. And the most relevant body to confirm the data adduced in these articles was the HCDCP itself. And so, following a series of telephone communication with various departments of the body (department of epidemiological surveillance, department of intervention in the community, department of education), and following electronic mail and personal visits to the external units of the HCDCP responsible for collecting the research’s data, it was proven, clearly, that no-one knew anything about the articles in question and about the specific cartographic data they presented. Quizzed faces, unanswered electronic messages and unawareness at the other end of the phone line. The articles in question had no relationship whatsoever to the epidemiological mapping out of Athens! Chrysa Botsi claims they comprise fabrications of the ministry of health which, by collecting scattered epidemiological data from the HCDCP’s field research and laying it out hastily, attempted to construct a clinical and phobic image for the “hygienic status” of the migrant populations in central parts of Athens.[68] It attempted, in other words, to crystallise scientifically and clinically the demands that the anti-migratory hygienic discourse carried with it, inaugurated as it had in March 2011 with Loverdos’ calls and the visit of the WHO and the ECDC teams to the concentration camps of Evros. A very systematic operation to construct a field of medical-police intervention which commenced, as we saw, with an official institutional rebuttal and was completed, as part of this overview, with the description of a faux and imaginative epidemiological map.[69]
This methodicalness comprised yet another sign that the Greek state attempted, amidst the murky landscape of the crisis―which comprises, first and foremost, a crisis for its structures and its meanings―to recompose the image of its managerial capacities and to reconstruct its functions. And for the purposes of this nation-rebuilding, the pathologisation of migratory populations offered on the one hand a historically tested solution and on the other, a concrete way through which the Greek state would be able to see and to show the first results of this reconstructing, away from moral and juridical limitations. What, then, was tried methodically in the 19th century at the colonial field, is nowadays attempted in a more legitimated manner―more legitimated in the sense that it acquires meaning in the framework of a “just” response to an “invasion” and not as part of a colonial practice―in the environment formed by the post-colonial communities in the heart of the western metropolises. As Foucault and Stoler point out, the constitution of the liberal national state―both in the sense of the constitution of a collective identity and the constitution of management apparatuses―was founded upon the meticulous construction of the enemy within, and in the drawing of racialized “interior frontiers”. And this construction, within the biopolitical horizon of the processes of meaning-assigning from which it remained confined, ought to be articulated in biological terms. The discourses and the calls for “the defence of the (Greek) society” could not but speak the language of the doctors and the hygienists. And this had to happen convincingly. It had to happen in ways that would prove that the epidemiological dangers were not some hysteric announcements of a fantasist minister, but were in a position, by that point, to be reflected in a clinical and cartographic way. Suiting, that is, to an able state mechanism which applies a plan of holistic management and which has convinced itself about this capacity. This hygienic discourse, as an attempt to scientifically document the anti-migrant ideological construction, nowadays ought to be read next to the other “serious initiatives” of the Greek state; next to the “Xenios Zeus” operation, to the concentration camps, to the deportation industry, to the reinforcement of border controls. The liminal discourses on “national survival” were, first and foremost, biopolitical.
By “mapping out”, then, corporalities, spatialities, and modalities, the Greek state attempted to create a picture of health and the vigor of its national population, ensuring this by mapping the supposed dangers it is faced with. But first and foremost, it recomposed the preconditions of a collective belonging, and suggested a way in which to think about it. This suggestion constitutes one of the two tremendous meanings that the publication of these articles maintains. And it assures us that even today, at the time of culturalism [70] and of differentialist racism,[71] at the time of calls for the “right to difference” and the ironic question of tolerance, the biologising arguments that composed the most nightmarish, and at the same time most fundamental process of biological racism maintain some disconcerting allure. As Etienne Balibar points out, after all, the notions of nature and culture can only be read in an inextricable interaction, when we encounter them in the interpretative frameworks of either old- or neo-racisms. The demand for the preservation of cultural difference, particularly in the way this is articulated via the main agenda of differentialist racism brings back, eventually, the “biological thematic”―either by approaching cultural differences as “natural”, or by reading xenophobia as a “natural” social reaction to cultural mixing. Naturalising, eventually, racist behaviours.[72] And let us not forget that “culture can also function like a nature, and it can in particular function as a way of locking individuals and groups a priori into a genealogy, into a determination that is immutable and intangible in origin”.[73] Nevertheless, in the example of the Greek hygienic construction the biological thematic returns in the most explicit and clear of ways, revealing a case of a peculiar and “delayed”biological racism. And demonstrating that the body continues to comprise the ultimate refuge of truth; a container for the extraction of concepts and meanings that is entirely functional, as Bashford showed us, both for political philosophy in general and for the conceptualisations of the nation in particular. It appears, then, that the bio-medical discourse, despite whatever deviations it may have from the anachronistic articulations of the Rassenhygiene (racial hygiene), proves to be, even today, terrifyingly present in the thinking of the national identity. In being that necessary gluing material between the natural and the political body, biomedical discourse offers the most tangible set of images for limits and their transgressions; in the case of the articles in question, it took on describing them through the organic and often macabre antagonisms describing the dialectics of health and illness.
Shinning as it does in its metaphorical richness, illness finds itself wherever anything else struggles to convince. It finds itself there to spread fear and justify violence, “[s]ince the interest of the metaphor is precisely that it refers to a disease so overlaid with mystification, so charged with the fantasy of inescapable fatality”.[74] It is precisely the invocation to this quality of the inescapable and the fatal that legitimises the use of the syntax of the emergency. The same syntax which turned the breaching of public spaces, the enforced blood-tests and the detentions of seropositivewomen an entirely normalised practice. The illness that invades upon the body of the society gives birth to a state of siege; a “war being defined as an emergency in which no sacrifice is excessive”.[75] The mechanisms of medical police invested, therefore, upon the production of fear in order to give the emergency the form they imagined to be appropriate. And in order to politically capitalise, in return, upon the endless empty field born by the demand for personal protection and security. As Bauman stresses out, “the gain in political legitimisation and in the acceptance of any government showing force”, each and every time that a question of a public threat is raised, is invaluable”.[76] There are then, some very important reasons for the state to continue to train itself in such an economy of fear and feelings. And part of this training comprises the invention of fields of intervention. Which is what the teams of the medical police did so methodically. The political management of fear, as in the examples of the culture of fear unveiled by Taussig, leads with quite some certainty to the landscapes of exception and of legalviolence. Where necessitas legem non habet.[77]
Yet it was not only certain populations that were problematised through these clinical articulations of the emergency. It was also certain geographies. And more specifically, central parts of Athens―which are the ones that have been hosting, for years now, the everyday spaces of public gathering of migrants. This is, then, where the second functional importance of the discoursein question is located. A primary aim of this cartographic construction was to prove that, through the “morbidity” of the migrants, the centre of Athens is also ill. Since the large migrant densities would not, in themselves, offer a pretext for a disciplinary urban management, one way was for doctors and for hygienists to bend over them, after the criminologists―constructing and then portraying the “pathological” threats these densities carry with them. The equation “ill migrants=ill centre” created in turn a new field of intervention for the state, this time on the basis of a city-rebuilding that was fully compatible with the broader demands of nation-rebuilding.[78] The matter of the management of the migrant flows and densities in central neighbourhoods of Athens was set, largely, as a main axis for a set of new conceptualisations, designs and plans regarding the urgent sanitation of the city. As the Self-Organised Space of the Architecture School very poignantly claims, commencing from the occasion of the architectural competition Re-think Athens,[79] the ideological and symbolic importance of the athenian centre proves to be immense. It comprises the field for the production of meanings. It points out, then, that the matter of management of “ghettoization phenomena” of parts of the centre of Athens, “by being constructed […] in public discourse as a national issue that concerns all, forms a condition of emergency that points at the migration issue as a whole, setting the tone for the management of migrants across the entire national territory, remoulding tolerances. […] And more specifically, the further ban of migrant workers”.[80] Athens’ city centre comprises, then, a field of ideological exercises for the domestic sovereign power―specifically, the field through which the matter of the migrants’ presence is meticulously constructed as a “national problem”. The discourse on the devaluation of certain parts of the centre can only be seen, in this way, in strong interaction with a logic of the construction “of the ‘problem’ on the basis of predetermined ‘solutions’, that is, the vast growth of the mechanisms of security and public order”.[81]
These emblematic parts of “devaluation” act as select places for the design of the anti-migratory policy as a whole. In this case, the “devaluation” itself was attempted to be articulated in epidemiological terms, constructing an urgent cartographic image with entirely false facts. As the editors of the journal Hérodote had once claimed, during a conversation with Foucault about geography, and pointing specifically at the crucial position occupied by the notion of the map within the power/knowledge relation, “[w]hat power needs is not science but a mass of information which its strategic position can enable it to exploit”.[82] One such example of arbitrary accumulation and composition of scattered information, lies in the set of articles in question concerning the so-called epidemiological map. In either case, the centre of Athens appears to be overcome by the forces of the “state of nature”―which, as we saw earlier on, make sure to ideologically and juridically create that void space, subsequently occupied by the applications of the emergency. The systematic references to the hygienic dangers and in particular, the co-ordinated references to the existence of a cartographic tool of epidemiological surveillance, create an image of the city that resembles a magnetic field. A field within which uncontrollable, morbid forces are constantly applied―and which contaminate anyone who may enter inside it. And this image is an image of emergency. It requires radical solutions. It requires, in other words, police applications. The origins of this project of medical-police problematisation of the athenian centre are located in the intersection of two different traditions. On the one hand, in the discourse that connects the field of hygiene with the theory and the practice of urban replanning, already from the birth of the early industrial city. On the other hand, in the framework nowadays forming the dominant discourses on cities and designs policies of public security through the targeting of post-colonial migrant neighbourhoods in the hearts of western metropolises. And each one of these traditions pertains its own particular disciplinary importance.
It is well-known that the matter of hygiene was assigned, from the outset, a key mission in the planning of the modern city. And this is not a mere managerial mission. The newly appearing working class and its habits became the object of a complete reform on the basis of hygienic arguments with strong moralistic and ideological extensions. At a time when organic metaphors offered the necessary tools for the thinking about the city and its vital functions, the state planning of the terms of life and habitation of the difficultly adjustable workers held a strong hygienic framework.[83] But class struggles themselves, along with the early workers’ demands were often treated as the object of a common military-hygienic matter. As the architect Eyal Weizman points out, the military experimental designs and the urban transformations to which they paved the way, show us a close relationship between the hygiene programmes and the urban modernisation of the 19th century.[84] The replanning of Paris by the renown baron Haussmann comprises one such case. The demand for a structural replanning of the city was articulated, as we know, in the shadow of the revolutionary events that shook Paris and other large European cities, right about at the middle of the 19th century; and it had, therefore, its own military issues. But the military staff chose to articulate and to materialise the demand in question also through hygienic pretexts. The city historian, Leonardo Benevolo, writes characteristically about Paris: “The new wide and straight roads must replace the unhygienic neighbourhoods and the narrow alleys that were used during the revolutionary movements, while at the same time facilitating the hygiene and the movement of the troops. Haussmann has in his disposal the article 13 of the law concerning hygiene and a decree of the Senate of 1852, which approves land expropriation with a mere decision of the executive power”.[85] A demand of urban replanning with clearly police-military extensions, effortlessly finds its natural environment in the expressions of the early hygienic discourse. The dominant imaginaries for the early industrial cities and their functions were constituted, then, through specific problematisations of the figures of the workers; of their health, their habits, their resistances, their residencies and their public spaces.
Very broadly, one could claim that what this collective figure of the worker offered in the past, in terms of the dominant meaning-assignments of the cities and the proposals for their replanning, is nowadays offered through the environment formed by the presence of the post-colonial migrant populations in the heart or in the periphery of the western metropolises. The dominant discourses on the city form a sense of its identity, through a demand for discipline or exclusion of these populations―and they turn their spaces into one of the main meanings of this forming. In the case of Athens we saw that the already tested, from the past, pretexts of public health were mobilisedonce again, in order to target the public and the private spaces of the migrants―offering an exemplary case of some, once again, delayed hygienic-urban planning discourse. Nevertheless, the biomedical discourse nowadays seems not to comprise a priority for the targeting in question, since the problematisation of the migrant presence in contemporary metropolises appears to internationally extract its tools from that universe of notions that compose, in common, the “Clash of Civilizations”,[86] cultural racism and Orientalism. Graham claims that “[a]s colonial migration to the increasingly post-colonial centres of empire has grown since the Second World War, so racialised depictions of immigrant districts as ‘backward’ zones threatening the body-politic of the (post)imperial city and nation helped Orientalist discourses, and imperial practices of urban subjugation, to telescope back to infuse domestic urban geographies”.[87]
What was therefore tested out so meticulously in the colonial spaces and times, leading Edward Said to such a deep analysis of the orientalist practices, is nowadays paradoxically repeated in the western metropolitan environment. The methodology is, nevertheless, the same. “Underlying all the different units of Orientalist discourse…”, writes Said, “…is a set of representative figures, or tropes. These figures are to the actual Orient […] as stylized costumes are to characters in a play”.[88] In this way, the Orient―and Islam in particular―is attempted to be sunk into a framework of enforced western representations, which demonise it; therefore also demonising its scattered representatives in the West―and therefore their everyday urban geographies as well. We are therefore led to what is nowadays called “inner city Orientalism”.[89] The moving of the agenda of the “Clash of Civilizations” to the heart of the “first world” urban formations offers a suiting framework for the problematising of the migrant presence and its micro-geographies. The, by now familiar, stereotypical representations of “Athens that has turned into Kabul” dominate public discourse and everyday conversations, raising issues of cultural incompatibility and non-assimilation. On the basis of the neo-conservative and racialised rhetoric, the argument is articulated that “the clash of civilizations has invaded the very streets of the most enlightened and iconic Western bourgeois urban spaces, with devastating consequences for security”.[90] And that is precisely where a new field of military-police applications is inaugurated. Graham writes in this regard: “In all Western nations, it is the postcolonial diasporas, and their neighbourhoods, that are the main targets of the new, internal and often highly racialised security politics”.[91]
In the drastic transformations of the urban functions and in the demographic changes that characterise contemporary metropolises, colonial practices are tested out in new fields of application. The places of collective migrant presence in the western urban environments comprise, perhaps, the most important of these. The technologies of governance that were applied and continue to be applied in some exotic labs of the East and the South nowadays offer all the necessary supplies for the composition, and for the model of governance itself for these contemporary “internal colonies”.[92] And as the violent and long colonial History shows us, they consist first of all an attempt of visualization of the colonial object itself. Using his studies of colonial Delhi as an axis in examining some common characteristics across the various technologies of colonial governance, and attempting to form the basis for an “analytics of governmentality”, Stephen Legg points out the tremendous importance maintained by the notion of visibility for the very intelligibility of the colonial field. The colonial field as an interweaving, first of all, of spaces and populations. The notion of visibility hereby brings together and condenses a sum of relationships, purposes and practices: “ways of seeing and representing reality; the practical knowledge of specialists and policy-makers; plans, maps and diagrams. How are some objects highlighted while others are obfuscated? What relations are suggested between subjects and space? How is risk mapped and what are the suggested remedies?”.[93] The mapping out presented by the aforementioned discourse attempts to take on this duty of the visualization of the field. The management, therefore, of the centre of Athens as an application of hygienic and orientalist representations may, in a paradoxical way, be included in the tradition of these technologies of governance. And as we saw, it comprises the point of a catastrophic meeting of different regimes of truth.
In this way, one can nowadays discern in the dominant discourses around Athens, sometimes that anachronistic description of urban planning as a matter of bodies, spaces and germs. Other times, the guideposts of the clash of civilisations. And some other times, familiar traces from typical combinations of the two―since, as Stoler and Bashford show us, racism and their colonial practices had their own ways to be articulated hygienically. In either case, this “violent invasion of anti-western culture” into the emblematic urban landscapes of western superiority produces a functional sense of a state of siege. Let alone when it carries with it a set of organic challenges. The response to this invasion can only be a military one. Whether it concerns the “invasion of the barbarians” or the “invasion of the plague”. It requires military management. The discourse around the epidemiological map in question may be alternatively seen as a public presentation of a map of police operations. Because the spaces in which the “geographers” and the writers of the medical police so meticulously focused upon match entirely with the neighbourhoods where, for two years now, the “Xenios Zeus” operation is under way; they match the places in which the city-rebuilding project will be determined and eventually, judged upon as an ideological prerequisite for nation-rebuilding at this time of crisis. If the demand for the recovery of the athenian centre from the “barbarian hordes” is viewed through the framework of a peculiar reverse orrepressed colonial practice, then as History shows us, such “mapping out” was required through and through. Because the map is not only a visualization of the field one wishes to command. It is also a very specific way in which to speak the truth. It is truth per se. This truth, as a question of visibility comprises, then, one of the main stakes of the governance of populations, of populations in space, of the populations as spaces per se. And the map was always in a position to shed light; to light up even the darkest of spots. And if need be, to draw them out of nothing.

[1]: Esposito Roberto, Totalitarianism or Biopolitics? Concerning a Philosophical Interpretation of the Twentieth Century, trans. by Timothy Campbell, Critical Inquiry 34, Summer 2008, p.641.
[2]: Agamben, ibid., p.94.
[3]: Elden Stuart, National Socialism and the Politics of Calculation, Social & Cultural Geography, Vol.7, No.5, October 2006, p.766.
[4]: Esposito, Terms of the Political, ibid., p.75.
[5]: See the renown text titled Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens (Authorization for the Annihilation of Life Unworthy of Being Lived), which was published in 1920. See in this regard Agamben, ibid., pp.80-81 and Cause of Death: Euthanasia, ibid., p.15.
[6]: They are these three laws, published in 1935: the Reich Citizenship Law, the Law to Protect German Blood and Honor, and the Law to Protect the Hereditary Health of the German People. Steinweis, ibid., pp.41-46. See also Taguieff, ibid., p.56.
[7]: Taguieff, ibid., p.27.
[8]: Esposito, ibid., p.59.
[9]:Ibid., p.60.
[10]: Mitropoulos, ibid., p.121.
[11]:Ibid., p.124.
[12]: Bashford, ImperialHygiene, ibid., pp.138,152.
[13]: Mitropoulos, ibid., p.119.
[14]: See, in this regard, Mertens E, Rockenschaub G, Economopoulou A, Kreidl P. Assessment of Public Health Issues of Migrants at the Greek-Turkish Border, April 2011. Euro Surveill. 2012;17(2):pii=20056. Available online: I was initially informed about this particular visit of the ECDC and the WTO by the doctor-pulmonologist Chrysa Botsi (“Andreas Syggros” Hospital-HIV Unit and Act Up Hellas NGO), during personal communication that took place in Athens on September 10, 2013.
[16]: Two typical examples prove the paradox of this reasoning, both offered by the rich tradition of the pathologising of the Jews through the centuries. The first case concerns the Jewish ghetto in renaissance Venice and the second one, the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw during the occupation of Poland by the Nazis. In both cases, the belief that Jews gestate contagious diseases was confirmed by the outcome of confinement conditions in the ghettos themselves. In addition, in the Warsaw example, the ghetto was situatedin an area that was already contaminated. See, respectively, Sennett Richard, Flesh and Stone – The Body and the City in Western Civilization, Faber and Faber, London 1994, p.236 and Esposito, Bios, ibid., p.117.
[17]: See the article by Anastasia Giamali, titled “The HCDPC and ECDC contradict Loverdos on the supposed ‘hygienic bomb’”, newspaper I Avgi, April 3, 2012, available at
[18]: Taussig Michael, Culture of Terror-Space of Death. Roger Casement’s Putumayo Report and the Explanation of Torture, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 26, No.3, (Jul., 1984), p.494.
[19]:Ibid., pp.470,482,492,494,495.
[20]: Sontag Susan, AIDS and Its Metaphors, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 1989, p.61.
[21]: See in this regard I thank Chrysa Botsi for pointing out this reference.
[22]:See his speech at the UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS, which was published on his personal website on June 9, 2011. Available at
[23]: From personal communication with Chrysa Botsi, ibid.
[24]: See first of all the data in the report by the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report in Greece, October 31, 2010, (Issue 25), Athens, but also the respective one for the year 2011, which was published later on, both of which contradict him. Available at
[25]: See the article titled “Sex workers with AIDS must be deported”, newspaper Eleftherotypia, December 16, 2011, available at
[26]: See the Press Release titled “Greeks’ health in light of the new epidemics”, March 22, 2012, available at
[27]: See the article titled “Hygienic checks to all migrants”, newspaper Ethnos, Sunday, April 1, 2012, available at
[28]: The sense of emergency was intensified by the fact that both the press conference and the issuing of the hygienic decree in question took place on a Sunday; that is, urgently. Decree 39Α was abolished in April 2013 by a decision of minister Fotini Skopouli (Government Gazette no. 1085/Β/30-4-13) and was brought back by Adonis Georgiadis in June the same year.
[29]: See Article 3 of the Hygienic Decree 39Α.
[30]: Athanasiou, The Crisis as a “State of Emergency”, ibid., p.45.
[31]: Foucault Michel, Discipline and Punish – The Birth of the Prison, trans. by Alan Sheridan, Vintage Books, New York 1995, p.199.
[32]: Ibid., p.198.
[33]: Agamben, Homo Sacer, ibid., p.27.
[34]: Ibid.
[35]: Ibid.
[36]: See for example the observations of the Swedish professor of political sciences, Herbert Tingsten, as adduced in Agamben Giorgio, State of Exception, trans. by Kevin Attell, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London 2005, pp.7,12.
[37]: See the relevant Press Release of the Greek police directorate, available at See also, the Press Releases of the General Police Directorate of Attica on April 27 & 29, 2012. Available at and respectively.
[38]: See the Press Release of the directorate of the Greek police on April 26, 2012, ibid.
[39]: See the Press Release of the HCDCP titled “Application of Hygienic Decree”, April 25, 2012, available at
[40]: See the Press Release titled “Hygienic checks HCDCP”, April 27, 2012, available at See also the relevant Press Release of the Greek police on April 27, 2012.
[41]: See the article by Panagiota Karlatiratitled “The AIDS-infected whores are a ‘hygienic bomb’”,newspaper Proto Thema, May 1, 2012, available at
[42]: It is hereby worth remembering that a similar operation was repeated on March 6, 2013 in the Athenian city centre, this time round with mass arrests of drug users and their transfer to the migrant detention camp of Amygdaleza. There, they were subjected to compulsory blood tests and detailed recording of all their personal and medical data, before they were released. The so-called operation “Thetis” was designed in common by the Greek police and the National Centre for Health Operations (EKEPY). See indicatively the Press Release of the Greek police of March 7, 2013. Available at
[43]: See the Press Release of the directorate of the Greek police on August 4, 2012. Available at
[45]: See the Press Releases of the Greek police up until February 23, 2013.
[46]: See the Press Release of the Greek police on April 21, 2014. Available at
[47]: Arendt Hannah, Social Science Techniques and the Study of Concentration Camps, Jewish Social Studies, Vol.12, No.1 (Jan., 1950), p.55.
[48]: Agamben, Homo Sacer, ibid., p.95.
[49]: Stavrides Stavros, Suspended Spaces of Alterity, Alexandreia, Athens 2010 (in Greek), p.27.
[50]: See the Press Release of the Greek police on August 4, 2012, ibid.
[51]:Health observers belong to the Public Health Administrations of each Health Prefecture. From personal communication with Chrysa Botsi, ibid.
[52]: See the Information Bulletin by the HCDCP, Number 18, August 2012, p.49.
[53]: See the Press Release of the directorate of the Greek police of February 15, 2013. Available at
[54]: From personal communication with Chrysa Botsi, ibid.
[55]: Esposito, Terms of the Political, ibid., p.75.
[56]: The map in question is not to be confused with the hygienic map that the HCDCP has been composing in recent years in common with the National School of Public Health (NSPH), and which comprises, essentially, a recording of data regarding public and private health services providers in Greece.
[57]: See the article “What areas are threatened by infectious diseases and epidemics”, available at
[58]: See the article “HCDCP: Athens is a hygienic bomb”, newspaper Ta Nea, September 27, 2012, available at
[59]: At this point, it is interesting to see that references to male prostitution do not recall, as one would expect, the well-known moralistic and hetero-normative arguments that link HIV to sexual contact between men. Nor do they attempt to describe, as is the norm, AIDS as one of the most recognisable results of “abnormality”.To the contrary, they utilise well-known motives of the main argumentation of the contemporary cultural racism, aiming at the assessment of male migrants sex workers on the basis of cultural criteria, and their inclusion into a framework of cultural retrogression. They bring, in this way, homophobia to the fore and they update the tools of the xenophobic agenda. We read, then, in Iatropedia in regards to male migrants sex workers that “most of them are Afghani and Kurds, while previously many Albanians participated, too. They do not consider themselves to be homosexual, while they oft-times hold homophobic and anti-homosexual feelings, due to their cultural background and their Muslim religion. They consider themselves to be heterosexual, and their clients to be inferior beings (since they are homosexuals)”. See the article “What areas are threatened by infectious diseases and epidemics”, ibid. Momentarily, the presence of such a piece of information in a series of articles with a hygienic direction might puzzle. Soon enough, however, one understands that what we are faced with is not mere medical philology with xenophobic insinuations. To the contrary, the hygienic arguments and whatever clinical images are the ones hosted in this libel of anti-migrant propaganda. And for this reason, the use of popular forms of contemporary islamophobic rhetoric should not come as any surprise. As the group Queericulum Vitae writes, through the contemporary racist uses, the impression is given that “homophobic attitudes are not a threat anymore to the western culture – the West is free of all this now”. And they point out that “[t]his transformation of the ‘West’ in a pure power of freedom and equality, one that has deleted from its memory all its past, this transformation is expressed also through this racist, islamophobic rhetoric of our times, the times of the ‘clash of civilizations’”. See the article “DV8, islamophobia and propaganda as art”, available at Let us not forget, also, that the practice of public sex, part of which may concern male sex workers, has a very precarious character―to the extent that its public nature itself renders it vulnerable to homophobic attacks. And this attacks would traditionally, much before the culturalist warnings of the ministry of health, take place by the Greek police and/or other Greek heterosexual men. See in this regard, Marnelakis Giorgos, The Precarious Geographies of “Public Sex” in the City, Architektones – Journal of the Association of Greek Architects, Issue 63, May/June 2007, pp.66-68. Finally, the constructability of the discourse in question is proven by the fact that the official research-mapping out of male prostitution issued by the HCDCP in July 2012―that is, only two months prior―included no reference whatsoever to homophobic expressions or understandings, concerning male migrant sex workers. See Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Street Program for Male Prostitution – Activity Report, January-June 2012, July 2012, Athens. Available at
[60]: “HCDCP: Athens is a hygienic bomb”, ibid.
[61]: This meticulous construction of responsibility is connected with a unique feature of first-world self-perception. Sontag wrote, then, in regard to the uses and the abuses of AIDS, that “[p]art of the centuries-old conception of Europe as a privileged cultural entity is that it is a place which is colonized by lethal diseases coming from elsewhere. Europe is assumed to be by rights free of disease”, in Sontag, AIDS and Its Metaphors, ibid., p.50.
[62]: See the article “HCDCP: Concern regarding the increase of infectious diseases in Athens’ historic centre”, newspaper Kathimerini, September 27, 2012, available at
[63]: See Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report in Greece, December 31, 2012, (Issue 27), Athens, p.15. See also, table 2, p.10 and figure 4, p.16. Available at
[64]: Botsi referred specifically to the drastic cuts that have taken place to the funding of therapeutic communities, the termination of relevant programmes and the cut in the supply of clean syringes―and finally, to the drastic decrease in financial sources required for HIV testing in Greece. From personal communication with Chrysa Botsi, ibid.
[65]: From personal communication with Chrysa Botsi, ibid.
[66]: In regard to the dominant narratives and the often-encountered arguments linking migrants to the spread of infectious diseases, Christina Samartzi, head of the Domestic Missions Unit of the Athens Multi-Clinic of the Doctors of the World during 2013, claimed that they attempt to target migrants for political reasons. From personal communication that took place in Athens on February 7, 2013.
[67]: See the Press Release of the HCDCP titled “Application of Hygienic Decree”, ibid.
[68]: From personal communication with Chrysa Botsi, ibid.
[69]: Clearly, the operation of pathologising the migratory flows did not end there. It is indicative that during the Greek presidency of the European Union, a European meeting-workshop took place in Athens on March 19 & 20, 2014, co-organised by the HCDCP, the ECDC and the Greek presidency, titled “Public Health Benefits of Screening for Infectious Diseases among Newly Arrived Migrants to the EU/EEA”. See the press release under the same title, available at I thank Chrysa Botsi for this information.
[70]: See Todorov, ibid., pp.67-70.
[71]: See Balibar Etienne, Is There a “Neo-Racism”?, in Balibar Etienne & Wallerstein Immanuel, Race, Nation, Class – Ambiguous Identities, trans. by Chris Turner, Verso, London & New York 1991, pp.21-27.
[72]: Ibid., pp.22,26.
[73]: Ibid., p.22.
[74]: Sontag, Illness as Metaphor, ibid., p.87.
[75]: Sontag, AIDS and Its Metaphors, ibid., p.11.
[76]: Bauman Zygmunt, Liquid Fear, trans. by Giorgos Karampelas, Polytropon, Athens 2007 (in Greek), p.193.
[77]: A Latin phrase that may be translated in two ways. Either as “necessity does not recognize any law”, or as “necessity creates its own law”. Adduced in Agamben, State of Exception, ibid., p.24.
[78]: For a typical ideological connection of city-rebuilding and nation-rebuilding see the article by Marcus Bensasson and Nikos Chrysoloras titled “Athens Lacking Only Elgin as Windows Erase Crisis: Cities”, Bloomberg, April 24, 2014, available at
[79]: See relevant information at the website
[80]: See the booklet titled The architectural competition re-think athens & the ideological/symbolic importance of the athenian centre, Self-Organised Space of Architecture School, Athens 2012, p.38.
[81]:Ibid. p.43.
[82]: See Foucault Michel, Questions on Geography, in Crampton Jeremy W. & Elden Stuart (eds), Space, Knowledge and Power – Foucault and Geography, trans. by Colin Gordon, Ashgate, Aldershot 2008, p.180.
[83]: See for example Donald James, Imagining the Modern City, The Athlone Press, London1999, pp.28-37.
[84]: See Misselwitz Phillip & Weizman Eyal, Military Operations as Urban Planning, Mute Magazine, August 28, 2003, available at
[85]: Benevolo Leonardo, The European City, Ellinika Grammata, trans. by Anna Papastavrou, Athens 1997 (in Greek), p.274.
[86]: See Qureshi Emran & Sells Michael A., Introduction: Constructing the Muslim Enemy, in Qureshi Emran & Sells Michael A. (eds.), The New Crusades – Constructing the Muslim Enemy, Columbia University Press, New York 2003, pp.1-47.
[87]: Graham, Foucault’s Boomerang, ibid., p.39.
[88]: Said Edward W., Orientalism, Penguin, London 2003, p.71.
[89]: Graham, ibid.
[90]: Graham, Cities Under Siege, ibid., p.49.
[91]: Graham, Foucault’s Boomerang, ibid., p.40.
[92]:Ibid., p.39.
[93: Legg Stephen, Foucault’s Population Geographies: Classifications, Biopolitics and Governmental Spaces, Population, Space and Place 11 (2005), p.148.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s