Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine

MCD. Jul. 2021. 416p. ISBN 9780374126582. $28. SOC SCI
Authors Twilley (co-host of the podcast Gastropod) and Manaugh (A Burglar’s Guide to the City) began their research on the practice of quarantine long before the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic, yet they always knew their book would be more than just a history of quarantine. They point out other instances of the practice, including in modern agriculture that depends on quarantine as a means of protection, especially as humans become more dependent on monoculture farming. Space exploration requires quarantine too, so that humans do not destroy other planetary ecosystems by transmitting Earth-based contagions. The global spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent viral flare-ups demonstrate a continuing need for separation and isolation; quarantine is still an effective tool in protecting public health, the authors say. Twilley and Manaugh argue, however, that quarantine’s effectiveness must be balanced against historical knowledge and the conditions we see today around diseases like Ebola; they prove that quarantine, when used as a way to protect one’s self, family, or society, can also allow the flourishing of racism, xenophobia, and oppression of targeted populations, including the revocation of personal freedoms. This book looks forward to new technologies and legal changes that may alter the way we travel and interact within our own homes to stay safe.
VERDICT An informative account for readers interested in public health’s impact on historical and current practices in medicine and science.
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