Accepted Paper:

Western cities and the framing of pandemic risk  

Author:

Elisa Pieri (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is based on ongoing research that investigates how cities in the West securitise against global pandemics, and the social implications that arise. It explores how the risk of pandemic contagion is constructed, and how cities prepare to avert and respond to threats of infection.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on ongoing research that investigates how cities in the West securitise against global pandemics, focusing principally on the social implications that arise. Pandemics pose new and difficult challenges, not least in relation to mapping and controlling contagion beyond the immediate locations of disease outbreak. The recent unfolding of the Ebola crisis, the 2002-3 SARS epidemic and the 2008-9 H1N1 flu pandemic illustrate some of the implications and added complexities of increased connectivity. The risk of pandemic outbreaks prompts emergency responses to rapidly diffuse, as a range of actors seek to act concertedly and, where possible, pre-emptively.

Risks associated with the spread of pandemics generate intense and high-profile speculation in Western media. Taking the recent Ebola outbreak as a case study, the paper critically analyses how the risk of pandemic contagion in Europe and the UK has been framed in UK media and policy discourse. Drawing on an STS-informed approach towards the processes of futuring, the paper critically discusses the impacts of the dominant framings of pandemic risk. The paper focuses attention towards the media re-framing of the humanitarian health crisis into a security threat primarily, as well as towards the scenarios and some of the technologies mobilised as a result.

Panel T058
Biorisk Intelligence otherwise: Scenarios, Visual Knowledge and new Mechanisms of Surveillance