Call for Papers: Techniques, technologies and materialities of epidemic control


Epidemic diseases emerge, unfold and are contained and controlled within infrastructural and technological formations. And at the same time, such technologies are employed and portrayed as crucial to the overall rehabilitation of civic order, often seen as being compromised or disturbed by unfolding epidemics.

This conference seeks to explore technologies and techniques of epidemic containment and control. This is aimed at shifting attention away from epidemic’s ‘evental’ status or the ‘outbreak narrative’ and towards economies of continuous investment and attention. The conference will focus on the coordination of objects, strategies, labour, policies and bodies in the effort to isolate, cleanse, and renew pathological environments by asking; how can we problematise the continuity of counter-epidemic technologies across supposed epistemic breakthroughs, such as the “laboratory revolution” in medicine? How do techniques and technologies function as sites of contestation, resistance, accommodation or reclamation in the course of outbreaks? What methods of in situ enskillment, from individual training to mass mobilization, does their employment necessitate? In which ways does the success or failure of these techniques and technologies inform broader configurations of infectious diseases as intelligible and actionable categories? What is the afterlife of failed or obsolete counter-epidemic technologies in the everyday sphere, and how are such techniques and devices remembered?

We invite papers from across the social sciences and humanities (anthropology, history, sociology, geography, STS) as well as from public health perspectives. Potential delegates are encouraged to consider the role of the following in epidemic control:

  • technologies such as machines, devices, manuals, prototypes, blueprints, drugs, vaccines, rapid diagnostic tests and sera
  • techniques such as quarantine, cleansing, testing, training, enskilling, and investing.

Reflecting the Visual Representations of the Third Plague Pandemic project’s particular interest in the visual we particularly welcome papers addressing the materiality and efficacy of the visual.

Abstracts of no more than 200 words are to be sent to Branwyn Poleykett by 1 May 2016.

College based accommodation for two nights will be booked and provided to speakers free of charge.

Speakers are expected to cover their own travel expenses.

Further information:


Call for Papers: Techniques, technologies and materialities of epidemic control

Image from 'A Treatise on Plague', W.J. Simpson (1905)