T some point last year I spent a bit of time flicking through the health requirements placed on getting visas to Australia. It was in response to a student of mine, who told me in class that while she had been granted the temporary visa she needed to study, her doctor had told her that she wouldn’t be granted anything longer-term, because she was “too fat”. I was horrified that weight could be the basis for exclusion from consideration, so I looked up the forms that doctors had to fill out. As it turns out, doctors can only refuse entry on the basis of weight in the presence of other ‘obesity-caused’ health problems. That is, the document specifically excludes discrimination solely on the basis of weight.
Yet she had been told that it was because she was ‘too fat’ that she wouldn’t be permitted entry. On the one hand, I think that this reflects a tendency amongst doctors to attempt to enforce the medical norm at each and every turn. On the other hand, and perhaps more insidiously, this is a doctor enforcing the exclusions of the body politic on the basis of a medical norm, even where the application of that medical norm has been questioned.
As s0metim3s demonstrates in relation to the sudden panic about HIV+ immigrants (misleadingly described as primarily from Africa countries), these kinds of moves are all about the alleged need to maintain the biopolitical health (of the population) and thus maintain the health of the body politic especially when an election is in the offing. The borders of Australia become understood as the skin that marks the edge of the body politic, always and endlessly under threat of mutilation, invasion, abjection (in Kristeva’s sense). More on this when I have a bit more time: I might post some bits from a paper I wrote last year which looked at the imaginary body of the body politic specifically in relation to the politicised production of (racialised) bodily tolerances of those within it. And I would like the opportunity to think about the excision of certain parts of Australia (for the purposes of immigration) – namely, the sea and island – in relation to this imagining of the body politic: the sea marked as a ‘soft’ edge, perhaps even a mucosive border (vulnerable to HIV, of course; ah, and look, there’s Irigaray again!)