Tag: containment

Bioethics Blogs

Human Contamination: The Infectious Border Crossings of Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X by Sophia Booth Magnone

“What if an infection was a message, a brightness a kind of symphony? As a defense? An odd form of communication? If so, the message had not been received, would probably never be received” (Acceptance 490).

“What if containment is a joke?” (Acceptance 576).

It all begins with a thorn: the delicate, glittering prickle of an unidentified plant growing at the base of a lighthouse in a sleepy coastal town. On a peaceful sunny day, the thorn pricks a man’s thumb, an act of violence so mild, so mundane, it scarcely attracts notice. Yet the end of the world starts there, where one organism pierces the skin of another. That tiny rift swells to a full-fledged invasion; the man and his lighthouse become the first targets of an inexplicable transformative force. When the initial cataclysm subsides, the coast has been purged of all human life, its inhabitants dead or transformed beyond recognition. The rest of the world is left only with questions. What exactly happened at the lighthouse? What lies dormant in that lonely landscape? Most importantly, how can whatever remains there be contained?

This nebulous, quietly sinister premise forms the foundation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novels Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance, collectively known as the Southern Reach trilogy. The novels take place, for the most part, thirty years after the mysterious event at the lighthouse, which has been officially categorized an “environmental disaster” and, by most people, forgotten about entirely. Only the government organization known as the Southern Reach continues to investigate the cordoned-off region now designated “Area X”: from the byzantine depths of its crumbling bureaucracy, the Southern Reach dispatches research expeditions, interprets findings, and scrabbles desperately at the possibility of defensive action.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Special Issue! Between Biopolitical Governance and Care: Rethinking Health, Self, and Social Welfare in East Asia by Anna Zogas

The first issue of Medical Anthropology in 2017 is a special issue, “Between Biopolitical Governance and Care: Rethinking Health, Self, and Social Welfare in East Asia.” Enjoy!

Between Biopolitical Governance and Care: Rethinking Health, Selfhood, and Social Welfare in East Asia (open access)
Amy Borovoy & Li Zhang

(There is a video abstract, too.)

In East Asia, health has historically been entwined with notions of morality and broader social ideals. But can the state and other institutions legitimate their involvement in everyday life habits that contribute to poor health outcomes? For example, food consumption, smoking, or cancer—issues that can be conceived as a matter of
‘individual choice’ and personal responsibility. In this issue, we explore the fine lines between exercises of social power that are repressive and controlling, and those that are productive, caring, or supportive. We examine intersections of individual desires and self-work with statism and the public good—for instance, drug addiction care and the use of psychological counseling in China, understanding cancer and stress in South Korea, and the containment of harmful behavior in Japan.

The Rise of Therapeutic Governing in Postsocialist China
Li Zhang

In this article, I explore how and why psychological intervention, often in the name of guanai (care), has gradually become a critical tool of managing the population and governing society in postsocialist China. Psychological counselors and experts are becoming a new form of authority, an indispensable part of creating and managing knowable, stable, and governable subjects for the military, the police, schools, and enterprises. ‘Therapeutic governing’ refers to the adoption of the therapeutic ethos, techniques, and care to improve the management of the work force and to help individuals cope with life in a rapidly changing society.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Are We All Flint? by Catherine Fennell

[This article originally appeared in Limn, Issue No. 7, “Public Infrastructures / Infrastructural Publics”.]

For the past several decades, Flint, Michigan, has staggered under waves of deindustrialization, disinvestment, and abandonment that have left the city depopulated, its built environment in shambles, and its remaining residents reeling from high unemployment and crime rates, a decimated tax base, and dwindling municipal services. While grim, Flint’s decline is by no means unique in a region whose cities have become synonymous with the booms and busts of twentieth century American manufacturing. Nor is the degree of its decay unusual. Aficionados of ruin will find crumbling infrastructures arresting and aplenty in most any “Rust Belt” city. What is singular, however, is the attention that Flint’s contaminated water has received in recent months, an attention that is now amplifying ongoing debates concerning America’s ailing and aging infrastructures. That amplification is especially apparent in variations of a phrase that has recently echoed through local, regional, and national media and activist circles: “We are all Flint.”

flint-water-filters-rg-bw

With every disclosed email, alleged wrongdoing, and denial of responsibility, the course of Flint’s contamination grows as murky and foul as the water that began flowing from its taps in 2014. In April of that year, the city switched its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The switch unfolded amid a climate of intense fiscal austerity in which state-appointed emergency managers pushed Michigan’s most financially beleaguered cities to cut costs. In Flint, part of this push included a proposal to bypass Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department as the city’s water supplier, and to instead source cheaper water through a newly constructed pipeline into Lake Huron.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Configurations of diagnostic processes, practices, and evidence: a conference report by Natassia Brenman

Every two years the Medical Anthropology at Home network organises a conference to present and discuss recent work. The ninth conference, held in June 2016 in Northern Norway, was organized by Mette Bech Risør from The Arctic University of Norway and Nina Nissen from the University of Southern Denmark. To address the theme of Configurations of diagnostic processes, practices and evidence, the conference placed diagnosis and diagnostic processes centre-stage — as classification and practices in-the-making, exploring a wide variety of actors, and organizational and discursive levels.

Thirty-two people presented papers in eight sessions broken up by two stirring keynote lectures, one delivered by Simon Cohn — from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK — and the other by Annemarie Jutel — from the Victoria University of Wellington, NZ. The papers, grounded in rich ethnographic material, offered critical reflections on new developments and transformations of socio-medical realities in Europe, the United States, Canada and Brazil. As medical anthropologists critically engaging with diagnostic practices in our respective projects, we (Natassia Brenman and Anna Witeska-Młynarczyk) each presented papers and participated in the lively discussions that took place over the four days. In the following reflections, we seek to capture the key themes that emerged from the sessions, and to consider how the overarching aim of advancing anthropological debates on diagnosis was pursued throughout the conference.

Diagnosis as containment: an opening thought

Simon Cohn’s opening keynote reflected on how we, as medical anthropologists, might maintain a focus on local practices in a world where it is increasingly hard to represent single bounded locations.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals – October 2016 by Livia Garofalo

Here is our “In the Journals” roundup for October. In addition to a rich selection of abstracts, also of interest this month are a Special Issue of Osiris on the “History of Science and Emotions” and two recent articles by Fernando Vidal on brains in literature and cinema (linked below). Enjoy!

 

Theory & Psychology 

Desire, indefinite lifespan, and transgenerational brains in literature and film

Fernando Vidal 

Even before the brain’s deterioration became a health problem of pandemic proportions, literature and film rehearsed the fiction of brain transplantations that would allow an aging person to inhabit a younger body, so that successive surgeries may result in that person’s immortality. Such fiction makes the brain operate like an immaterial soul that does not undergo physical decline. This article examines that fiction as elaborated in Hanif Kureishi’s The Body and several films in connection with older fantasies that articulate desire, eternal youth, and personal immortality, with philosophical discussions about brain and personhood, and with people’s assimilation of neuroscientific idioms into their views and practices of personal identity. In conclusion it discusses how, in contrast to philosophical approaches that tend to focus on self-consciousness, first-person perspectives, and individual autonomy, fiction may contribute to direct attention to relationality as constitutive of personhood.

SubStance 

Frankenstein’s Brain: “The Final Touch”

Fernando Vidal 

 

Critical Public Health

A critical examination of representations of context within research on population health interventions

Jean Shoveller, Sarah Viehbeck, Erica Di Ruggiero, Devon Greyson, Kim Thomson and Rodney Knight

Research that fulsomely characterizes context improves our understanding of the processes of implementation and the effectiveness of interventions to improve the health of populations and reduce health inequalities.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Never Ending Stories: Narrating Frozen Evidence of Infectious Epidemics Past by Joanna Radin

Early Elegy: Smallpox
by Claudia Emerson

  • The world has certified itself rid of
  • all but the argument: to eradicate or not
  • the small stock of variola frozen,
  • quarantined—a dormancy it has
  • refused, just once, for a woman behind a sterile
  • lens, her glass slide a clearest, most
  • becoming pane. How could it resist slipping
  • away with her, that discrete first pock?

 

In 1979, public health officials announced the eradication of smallpox. This achievement was more than just an impressive demonstration of mass vaccination. It represented the ability of nations locked in a frigid Cold War to unite against a common enemy. From this point on smallpox became a prisoner of war, held hostage in the laboratory freezer or, to be more specific: two laboratory freezers. In 1984 the World Health Organization decided that only two entities could provide sufficient security to maintain freezers filled with scabs and cells that harbored smallpox: a Siberian lab called Vector in Novosibirsk and the other at the CDC in Atlanta.

The decision to allow two superpowers, the USSR and the US, to stockpile microbes as well as missiles provided cold comfort to experts concerned about germ warfare. Not only was there concern that one nation might choose to deploy smallpox as a weapon of mass destruction, there was also fear that the very idea that smallpox had been contained in two freezers was itself a fiction.

In 1987, virologist Frank Fenner asked members of the World Health Assembly to entertain the various ways in which smallpox could still reemerge to wreak havoc on humankind.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Where Has SARS Gone? The Strange Case of the Disappearing Coronavirus by Robert Peckham

The emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in China’s Guangdong Province in the winter of 2002 was an exemplary spillover event: it marked the passage of a lethal pathogen from nonhuman to human animals and was widely heralded as the first “plague” of the twenty-first century. The SARS coronavirus seemed to burst out of nowhere and demonstrated pandemic potential from February 2003 when it diffused globally via Hong Kong. After SARS was officially declared contained by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 5 July 2003, there were a few isolated cases but none since 2004.

SARS in the SAR

Hong Kong was at the epicenter of the 2003 SARS outbreak and the identity of the newly recognized pathogen became fortuitously linked to Hong Kong’s evolving status as a postcolonial Chinese city under Deng Xiaoping’s “One Country, Two Systems” policy. Since its “handover” from Britain in 1997, the territory had been a “Special Administrative Region” (or SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) – a quasi-autonomous region within the sovereignty of China.

In a WHO press release on 15 March 2003, the new “syndrome,” which had made its first appearance in Hong Kong in February of that year, was named “SARS.” The acronym was easily confused with the abbreviation SAR by which Hong Kong was known. SARS and SAR acquired a disturbing indexicality. Referred to sardonically by some commentators as the “Special Administrative Region Syndrome,” Hong Kong officials were wary of using the term SARS to describe the new disease. Instead, they continued calling it “atypical pneumonia.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

After the End of Disease: Rethinking the Epidemic Narrative by Dora Vargha

In conversations with people living with polio in Hungary, I often encountered members of the tight-knit community referring to themselves as “dinosaurs”. We are a breed that is about to die out, they said. Nobody gets polio anymore, some added, and they were right – epidemics, even sporadic wild polio cases disappeared from the country in the 1960s. Their words stood in stark contrast with celebrities like Jackie Chan, Desmond Tutu and Bill Gates showing on billboards all over the world that with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative we are ‘this close to ending polio’. Yet the urgency of the eradication campaign and the gradual disappearance of a polio generation over a lifetime both signified the same thing: the end of a disease. But what, exactly, is this end and what comes after?

In the following weeks, a series of posts by historians, anthropologists and sociologists will grapple with these questions as they consider epidemic narratives and the ways in which endings bear on global health issues. This series accompanies the interdisciplinary conference After the End of Disease, held on May 25-27 2016 in London. Bringing together practitioners and academics from various disciplines and fields, this event aims to initiate conversations on when and for whom diseases end, what happens when the end fails to come, who gets to determine the end and who gets left behind, how a focus on endings shape health policies and how we can critically rethink the temporalities of epidemics.

Public and academic discussions on the end of diseases have been abundant in the midst of recent epidemic crises.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

BioethicsTV: Containment Fails to Go Viral

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

The CW network began airing a “limited” series (what used to be called a mini-series) drama about a bio-terrorism outbreak in the city of Atlanta. Similar to the far superior film Contagion, this television show explores how lives change and the tough decisions that are made in an epidemic.

Containment demonstrates many of the real tools public health has for controlling an epidemic of little known origin and lacking cure or vaccine: closing public places, compulsory leave at businesses, cordon sanitaire, curfews, sanitation, isolation, price controls, quarantine, screening, surveillance, testing, and travel restrictions.…

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Who is Afraid of CRISPR Art? by Eben Kirksey

A crowd-sourced Indiegogo funding campaign that raised over $45,000 for do-it-yourself gene editing kits in December, asks: “If you had access to modern synthetic biology tools, what would you create?”  This campaign, which aims to democratize science “so everyone has access,” was launched by Josiah Zayner, who earned a PhD in Molecular Biophysics from the University of Chicago.  For $130 Zayner offers a DIY CRISPR kit that “includes everything you need to make precision genome edits in bacteria at home including Cas9, gRNA and a Donor DNA template.”  This Indiegogo campaign has a special Note to BioHackers: “Each kit comes with all sequence and cloning detail so you can perform your own custom genome engineering.”

Genetically modified organisms, created with CRISPR or other technologies, have the potential to run wild and cause harm to human health and ecological communities.  Zayner’s Indiegogo campaign attracted supporters from around the world, including many nations where there are no clear laws about containment for organisms that have been “biohacked.”  The Federal Bureau of Investigation has targeted hacking communities with the Bioterrorism Protection Team to ferret out possible malicious uses of emergent technologies.  Biohacking can pose significant risks, according to Charis Thompson, Professor of Sociology at University College London and at UC Berkeley.  But security concerns should not blind us to the creative potentials of tools like CRISPR, she says.  During Thompson’s recent address to the Human Gene Editing Summit in Washington she asked: “Are the biosecurity risks exaggerated for citizen use of these technologies? What are the creative and democratic potentials of these techniques?”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.