The Outbreak Narrative: Disease Emergence and the Obscured Geography of Poverty
SpeakersPriscilla WaldProfessor of English, Duke University - http://bit.ly/s8egwh
Organised byESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum & The Medical Humanities Research Network, IASH
Room S37 (second floor) Psychology Building 7 George Square EdinburghEH8 9JZ
Accounts of newly surfacing diseases appeared in scientific publications and the mainstream media in the West with increasing frequency following the introduction of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the mid-1980s. They put the vocabulary of disease outbreaks into circulation, and they introduced the concept of "emerging infections." While these accounts were neither monolithic, nor static, their repetition of particular phrases, images and story lines produced a formula that was amplified by the extended treatment of these themes in the popular novels and films that proliferated in the mid-1990s. Collectively, they drew out what was implicit in all of the accounts: a fascination not just with the novelty and danger of the microbes, but also with the changing social and spatial formations of a shrinking world.
These stories have consequences. As they disseminate information, they affect survival rates and contagion routes. They promote or mitigate the stigmatizing of individuals, groups, populations, spaces and locales (regional and global), behaviors and lifestyles, and they change economies. They also influence how both scientists and the lay public understand the nature and consequences of infection, how we imagine the threat and why we react so fearfully to some disease outbreaks and not others at least as dangerous and pressing, as well as which problems merit our attention and resources.