Accepted Paper:

The politics of responsibility: problematizing vaccination in Austrian public health discourse  
Bernhard Hadolt (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

I examine the ways of how the appeal to one’s responsibility for ‘innocent’ others was used for mobilising feelings of duty, victimhood and deservingness in Austrian public discourses on vaccination. I argue that the reference to responsibility can be understood as a ‘technique of problematisation’.

Paper long abstract:

The use of immunization programmes is a key area in the standard repertoire of interventions that states (and increasingly so supranational agencies and humanitarian NGOs) resort to with the aim of averting individual suffering and improving the health status of their populations. In spite of the remarkable success of vaccination programmes in the past, the so called 'vaccination gap', the gap of people who are not or are not fully vaccinated, in most industrialised countries is on a dramatic rise; this is in particular the case among members of the well-educated, middle class. The corresponding growing concern of many public health authorities and vaccination experts fuelled recent public debates about sense and senselessness of vaccination programmes.

Based on empirical material from media accounts, webpages and interviews with policy makers, experts in the field, and lay people, this presentation examines the lines of arguments and discursive devices that surfaced in the recent public health discourse on vaccination in Austria. In particular, I look at the ways of how the appeal to one's responsibility for 'innocent' others was used for mobilising feelings of duty, victimhood and deservingness. I argue that the reference to (personal) responsibility is a 'technique of problematisation' by which certain spheres of activity are structured and normatively charged in particular ways.

Panel P087
The politics of vaccination: affect, rationality and power