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Finden, Alice (2021) 'Hygiene, Morality and the Pre-criminal: Genealogies of Suspicion from Twentieth Century British-Occupied Egypt.' Australian Feminist Law Journal, 47 (1). pp. 27-45.

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The concept of the ‘pre-criminal space’ has seen increasing uncritical use in countering terrorism policy since 9/11. It is understood by critical scholars primarily as a new legal temporality that brings forward the ‘threshold of criminal responsibility’, thus allowing for pre-emptive, suspicion-based criminalisation. This has allowed for the validation of measures such as arbitrary arrest and detention, bogus trial and restrictions on liberty, and is evidenced as being applied in an Islamophobic and racialised manner to entire communities. Furthermore, in our contemporary moment of Covid-19 where the emergency tools used to regulate hygiene and infection intersect with those used in countering terrorism work, critics are increasingly concerned about the expansion and normalisation of the pre-criminal space and its use in pathologising and medicalised ways. Using archival research, this article adapts the contemporary concept of the ‘pre-criminal’ to a historical and medico-legal context. In doing so it traces how the history of infectious diseases – in particular VD – has shaped the space through slippages between hegemonic understandings of morality, hygiene, vagrancy and extremism. I show how the ‘vagrant’ nature of disease marked racialised, gendered and classed subjects as potentially infectious and immoral. Looking particularly at the regulation of sex workers in British-occupied Egypt, I conceptualise the power struggles between actors including the British administration, British abolitionist feminists and the Egyptian government as a securitisation network which infiltrated the lives of Egyptians and marked them as suspicious. I further show how the encroachment upon everyday lives was made even more possible through the implementation of martial law. In this way, I suggest that contemporary British forms of pre-criminality and risk can be understood as a latent form of coloniality present in law-making practices.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Law
Departments and Subunits > Interdisciplinary Studies > Centre for Gender Studies
ISSN: 13200968
Copyright Statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in Australian Feminist Law Journal, published by Taylor and Francis. It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 27 Jun 2021 09:22
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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