Tracing viral trajectories. Epistemic and bodily reservoirs in interspecies health
(2023) Tracing viral trajectories. Epistemic and bodily reservoirs in interspecies health. History and Technology, 1-17.
Abstract: Emerging infectious diseases draw critical attention to the human–animal interface for understanding and explaining global health crises. These include zoonoses that directly affect human health, as well as epizootic events in livestock and wildlife rendering economic and societal systems vulnerable. This paper traces the overlaps between three viral trajectories – that of African Swine Fever (ASF), AIDS, and COVID-19 – to show how technoscientific ways of knowing and responding to disease outbreaks frame certain forms of human–animal contact as risky and dangerous. We mobilize the notion of a reservoir, understood both as (surplus) bodies harboring infectious disease, and an epistemic pool of associations and response protocols accompanying health crises. Our point of departure is a short-lived hypothesis from the 1980s on the connection between AIDS and ASF, which marshalled racialized fears over undesirable interspecies contact. From there we inspect the tension between the epistemic and affective modes of causality in current and historical narratives, which seek the blame for disease in transgressions against nature. By focusing on how disease narratives spill over to social categories of race and class, our analysis questions the depictions of these transgressions from the standpoint of universal humanity.
Image: Signs about a sanitary station due to African Swine Fever, Poland 2014. Author: Mikołaj Grycuk.