Monday, 31 January 2011

International medical travel and the politics of therapeutic place-making in Malaysia

I received the 2011 AAG Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group's Jacques May PhD Dissertation Award for my thesis (now available online):
Ormond, M. (2011) 'International medical travel and the politics of therapeutic place-making in Malaysia', PhD thesis, School of Geography and Geosciences, University of St Andrews, UK. Available from

This thesis examines the shifting relationship between the state and its subjects with regard to responsibility for and entitlement to care. Using Malaysia as a case study the research engages with international medical travel (IMT) as an outcome of the neoliberal retrenchment of the welfare state. I offer a critical reading of postcolonial development strategies that negotiate the benefits and challenges of extending care to non-national subjects. The research draws from relevant media, private-sector and governmental documents and 49 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with IMT proponents and critics representing federal, state and urban governmental authorities, professional associations, civil society, private medical facilities and medical travel agencies in Malaysia’s principal IMT regions (Klang Valley, Penang and Malacca). Across four empirical chapters, the thesis demonstrates how ‘Malaysia’ gets positioned as a destination within a range of imagined geographies of care through a strategic-relational logic of care and hospitality. I argue that this positioning places ‘Malaysian’ subjects and spaces into lucrative global networks in ways that underscore particular narratives of postcolonial hybridity that draw from Malaysia’s ‘developing country’, ‘progressive, moderate Islamic’ and ‘multiethnic’ credentials. In considering the political logics of care-giving, I explore how the extension of care can serve as a place-making technology to re-imagine the state as a provider and protector within a globalising marketplace in which care, increasingly commoditised, is tied to the production of new political, social, cultural and economic geographies.

A set of publications related to this work are available:

Ormond, M. (2013) Neoliberal Governance and International Medical Travel in Malaysia, London: Routledge. Available at: 

Ormond, M. (2013) ‘Harnessing “diasporic” medical mobilities’, in F. Thomas and J. Gideon (eds) Migration, Health and Inequality, London: Zed Books, 150-162.

Ormond, M. (2012) ‘Claiming “cultural competence”: The promotion of multi-ethnic Malaysia as a medical tourism destination’, in C.M. Hall (ed.) Medical Tourism: The Ethics, Regulation, and Marketing of Health Mobility, London: Routledge, 187-200. Available at:

Ormond, M. (2011) ‘Medical tourism, medical exile: Responding to the cross-border pursuit of healthcare in Malaysia’, in C. Minca and T. Oakes (eds) Real Tourism: Practice, Care and Politics in Contemporary Travel, London: Routledge, 143-161. Available at: