Exploring the Cultural Politics of Infectious Diseases
This panel will explore the cultural politics of global infectious diseases: how they are named, understood, and managed. Diseases are not free-standing biological events; they are discovered, made visible, translated and put to use in a variety of socio-political and cultural ways. Frenzied media attention to the transnational dimension of pandemics such as HIV/AIDS and SARS in recent years underscores the means through which infectious diseases become conceptualized in global terms. This comes at a time when changes associated with globalization, including the accelerating pace at which goods, capital and humans cross national boundaries, are often discussed through metaphors of infection and disease. In this era of proliferating real and imagined infections, states, non-government organizations, and individual citizens are increasingly called upon to manage the risks associated with these new threats. The recent decision on the part of the Indonesian government to withhold sharing bird flu samples from the international community is one example of new the cultural politics of infectious disease control.
This panel will discuss emerging strategies and techniques deployed in the name of controlling disease. How do the ways in which particular infectious diseases become identified as risks influence both the conceptualization and efficacy of responses? What kinds of citizens, populations, or institutions are being protected, and from what? Does a focus on state responses adequately capture the range of practices occurring in the name of stopping the spread of infectious diseases?
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