Domesticating biosurveillance: ‘Containment’ and the politics of bioinformation

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Although the term biosurveillance is employed with increasing frequency there remain variances in way in which the concept is both understood and practiced in the US and the UK, respectively. In this paper I begin by exploring the different epistemological and geographical approaches to biosurveillance that are employed in each locality, paying particular attention to the scales at which they, respectively, operate. I also consider how the subjects of these systems (a State's citizenry) are monitored in each jurisdiction and with what effects. I contend in this paper, and illustrate through a study of the techniques of surveillance employed during the recent H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic, that these different ‘registers’ of biosurveillance are now being bought into the same frame of reference to create new, ever more robust and finely calibrated systems of biological surveillance. In thinking through the political implications of the emergent collision, I outline here, employing work from Cooper, Katz, and Lyon how biosurveillance is becoming progressively domesticated and reflect on the potential this has for creating new, expansive, and very pervasive, forms of biological ‘governmentality’.

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