The Politics of Surveillance in the Interwar Czechoslovak Periphery: The Role of Campaigns Against Infectious Diseases

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SHMIDT Victoria

Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung. Journal of East Central European Studies.
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Education

Keywords interwar period; Czechoslovakia; Eastern periphery; Roma; internal colonialism; public health
Description The accession of Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia (Podkarpatská Rus) to the newly established Czechoslovak state represents one of the most dramatic aspects of the aftermath of World War I, warranting further explanation. This text elaborates the discourses and practices introduced by the core, namely the Czechs, concerning health and disease among the peripheral populations of the Eastern, “non-historical part” of Czechoslovakia as an expression of internal colonialism. The dominant core (Czechs) sought to establish tough surveillance over the Eastern periphery, where the population was seen as comprised of risk groups unable to ensure social security. Thus, the politics of ethnicity and its corollary, public health, became a main instrument for practicing surveillance strategies concerning the most “unreliable” part of population, the Roma, in the most vulnerable parts of the state, Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia. The text traces the transformation of public tokenism concerning the fight against infectious diseases into a durable policy of segregation directed at the Roma. This turn played a pivotal role in shaping the policies concerning ethnic groups in Czechoslovakia in subsequent decades.
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