Hybrid assemblages on the move: a more-than-human understanding of pandemic threat identification and governance
Jose A. Cañada
(University of Helsinki)
Paper short abstract:
Pandemic viruses are a threat to global health because of the way they move around the globe. However, they do not travel alone but as part of more-than-human assemblages. These assemblages are key in threat identification processes and in the way pandemic flows and care are governed.
Paper long abstract:
The rise of pandemic threats as a global concern is tied to an increase in global mobility, trade and transport. The study of such phenomena happens in the frame of international research networks that usually focus on the study of specific viruses like Influenza, Ebola or Zika. However, when viruses move around the world, they do not travel alone. They do it as part of assemblages that include animals and humans as well as traveling and biosafety technologies. Consequently, pandemic preparedness and response mechanisms do not focus only on viruses but on wider more-than-human assemblages, on the movements, flows and care of hybrid threats. Control mechanisms resonate with those of global migration movements. A diseased human is not equally threatening in Africa, Europe or an airport. Similarly, the threat posed by a bird depends on its status as wild or domestic. In my work I argue that identifying and categorizing threats is an intersectional process. Being categorized as part of a threatening assemblage happens in connection to categories such as nationality, gender, educational background, beliefs and even epistemological position. I illustrate this by combining the analysis of documents on pandemic preparedness and response from different national and international organisations, of scientific articles and news on ongoing outbreaks and alerts and by interviewing public health professionals and observing their work. My work helps build a more-than-human perspective that develops the understanding of how scientific, technical and institutional categories and boundaries are made productive in health governance.