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The medicalisation of threats, immigration as contagion, and White supremacy in an age of terror



The 6 January 2021 events must be analysed within a broader context than the phenomenon of Trumpism. The attempted coup that brought together (former) members of the military, White supremacist organisations, and regular citizens has a rich genealogy. We trace this genealogy to the events of 11 September 2001 and the homeland security state built in their wake, even as its reach extends further into U.S. history. Post-9/11 discourse became a mechanism for seeking and interpreting perceived threats to the United States and its citizens. Through it, immigration, disease, and White supremacy became intertwined. Perceptions of infectious and biological threats became racialised. With the emergence of the novel coronavirus, President Trump enacted travel bans and routinely referred to the virus as the “Wuhan virus” or “Chinese virus.” Hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans followed, as this language reinvigorated Orientalist histories. We examine rhetoric about disease over the past twenty years, particularly as it has reinforced militarism and White supremacy, all against the backdrop of 9/11. State constructions of 9/11 and 9/11 memory inform and explain our recent and contemporary terrain.

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