Bioinsecurity and Vulnerability
Edited by Nancy N. Chen and Lesley A. Sharp
“Biosecurity” has ballooned into an increasingly mundane aspect of human experience, serving as a catchall for the detection, surveillance, containment, and deflection of everything from epidemics and natural disasters to resource scarcities and political insurgencies. The bundling together of security measures, its associated infrastructure, and its modes of governance alongside response times underscores a new urgency of preparedness—a growing global ethos ever alert to unforeseen danger—and actions that favor risk assessment, imagined worst-case scenarios, and carefully orchestrated, preemptive interventions. The contributors to Bioinsecurity and Vulnerability understand biosecurity to be a practice that links national identity with the securitization of daily governance. They argue against biosecurity as the new status quo by focusing instead on its ugly underbelly. Through considering the vulnerability of individuals and groups, particularly looking at how vulnerability propagates in the shadow of biosecurity, this volume challenges the acceptance of surveillance and security measures as necessities of life in the new millennium.
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“Bioinsecurity is an eye-opener that defines all living species—human, animal and plant—as ‘fellow prisoners’ in an incarcerated planet anticipating disasters and catastrophes that will sort out the ‘vulnerable’ from the ‘resilient,’ and the recipients of the largesse of those who are expected to restock and resupply life forms to those who can buy, manage, and bide their time. This is an astute collection of anthropological readings of the coming global-environmental-medical-and-political disasters of our time.”
—Nancy Scheper-Hughes, author of Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil
“Probing the join between neoliberal capitalism and post-9/11 militarism, the essays in this jewel of a volume explore the rise of our current biosecurity obsession with terrorist attack, global pandemics, adulterated foodstuffs, and water shortages. Discussing everything from the illicit trade in human organs to genetically modified food and Yemeni agriculture, the authors show how states, corporations, and large development organizations have invested massive resources in ways that distort our perception of actual security threats while often making the lives of poorer global citizens less secure. The essays in this volume are refreshingly original and accessible, showcasing the best that a publicly relevant anthropology has to offer.”
—Hugh Gusterson, author of People of the Bomb: Portraits of America’s Nuclear Complex
“The contributors all in some way address the critical questions that must be asked of those who claim to protect us through forms of biosecurity: ‘what truly counts as risk, whose vulnerability matters, and who is worthy of protection?’ Because the contributors come from a range of disciplines and backgrounds, this volume provides access to a wide readership concerned about the state of modern political discourse, and [who] wish to explore its implications more fully. . . . As an edited collection, it gives voice to the vulnerable communities that are at risk of a paranoid social imagery of the West, an imagery driven by an almost unquestioned neoliberal market mentality and the language of militarization.”
—Petra Brown, Deakin University, Human Ecology, October 2016
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