'Flexible bio-citizenship' and international medical travel: Transnational mobilities for care in Asia

Andrea Mary Whittaker, Chee Heng Leng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


International medical travel (IMT) challenges the notion of health care as a responsibility of a nation-state to its citizens, tied to the territory of a nation-state. As patients travel for medical care, they invoke not territorialised notions of citizenship, but make new claims. In this article, the authors propose the term flexible bio-citizenship that extends the notion of flexible citizenship to describe transnational mobilities for the accumulation of biovalue. They argue that people who travel for medical care come from a variety of backgrounds, identities and circumstances for whom the physical and economic ability to travel and cross borders is a form of flexible social capital enabling them to access levels of care otherwise inaccessible to them. The article explores the implications upon citizenship for a diverse range of people who travel for their health care: from highly mobile cosmopolitan professional expatriate workers, regional border crossers, migrant workers, those who cannot afford care at home, patients whose status makes treatments unavailable, and outsourced patients forced to travel for care. Their mobility allows them to gain biovalue but also alters their citizenship relationships and perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286 - 304
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Biological citizenship
  • biovalue
  • international medical travel
  • medical tourism

Cite this