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Michael Christopher Low

Global Public Health and the Ghosts of Pilgrimages Past

[A pilgrim wears a surgical mask. Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 2009. Photo from Flickr/Al Jazeera English.]

As the control of disease became a pressing concern of colonial administrators in the late nineteenth century, the hajj was transformed by novel and intensified legal and institutional arrangements developed for the management of transitory Muslim populations. In 1880, the Ottoman Empire issued a decree that all pilgrims would be required to produce a passport upon arrival in the Hjjaz. In 1882, the Ottomans opened the Kamaran Island quarantine station. All pilgrimage ...

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Michael Christopher Low


Michael Christopher Low is a Ph.D. candidate in International and Global History at Columbia University in New York.  His research interests include the pilgrimage to Mecca, epidemic disease, hydropolitics, passports and mobility regulation, the Ottoman Empire, the Arabian Peninsula, and Islam in the Indian Ocean.  He is currently conducting research in Istanbul for his dissertation project, “Governing Islam: The Muslim Holy Land and the World of Empire.”  His publications include “Mecca: Pilgrimage and the Making of the Islamic World, 400-1500,” in Aran MacKinnon and Elaine McClarnard MacKinnon, eds., Places of Encounter: Time, Place, and Connectivity in World History, vol. 1 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2012) and “Empire and the Hajj: Pilgrims, Plagues, and Pan-Islam under British Surveillance, 1865-1908,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 40, no. 2 (May, 2008): 269-290.