Accepted Paper:

Future invocation - economic and immunitary imaginaries in anti-microbial resistance (AMR)   

Author:

Nik Brown (University of York )

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines the way AMR is made to perform certain 'economic imaginaries' (Jessop & Oosterlynck 2008) and 'imagined immunities' (Wald 2008) for envisioning future markets, for the reform of healthcare, for the control of national borders, and for the securitisation of the body politic.

Paper long abstract:

The paper focuses on recent political and economic interventions in anti-microbial resistance (AMR), the seemingly limitless potential of microbial life to outcompete generations of antibiotic toxins. It examines the way AMR is made to perform certain political and 'economic imaginaries' (Jessop & Oosterlynck 2008) becoming a vehicle for envisioning future markets, for the reform of healthcare, for the control of national borders, and for the securitisation of the body politic. These economic imaginaries are also expressed through certain kinds of 'imagined immunity' (Wald 2008) projected into patterns of future invocation.

It explores two key political and cultural moments in the AMR debate. In the first, AMR is politically expressed as the 'British Disease' in the UK general election of 2005. Here, resistant infections are projected into anxieties surrounding race, migration and public-sector neoliberal market reforms. Almost exactly a decade later, the UK prime minister foretells a future 'return to the dark ages of medicine' and appoints a leading monetary economist to reinvigorate the market in antibiotics. The paper explores the way 'resistance' is absorbed into the material and imaginary logics of markets. Resistance is not to be 'overcome' or 'transcended' as such. Instead resistance becomes a 'limitless invocation' (Brown and Nettleton 2016) of the future, a form of 'anticipatory evolution' (Cooper 2006) that hastens and actualises the very thing that is feared, resistance.

Panel T028
Futures in the making and re-making