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Books, Journals, New Media
February 25, 2004

Public Health History

Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(8):1007-1008. doi:10.1001/jama.291.8.1007

Science at the Borders explores a very interesting topic, the imposition of medical inspections as a condition of immigration to the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a richly detailed look, both archivally and statistically based, at the policies of the Public Health and Immigration Services. It argues that medical inspections did not serve their obvious purpose of keeping out immigrants with medical conditions that threatened to leave them unfit for work and dependent on others, and that they should instead be understood as a form of social disciplining, showing immigrants what was expected of them in the new world. Instead of a commonsensical, straightforward explanation, a less intuitive reinterpretation is advanced. Does this project succeed?

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