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2013 SIAH

Outbreak! Reimagining Death and Life, Disease and Health

The 2013 Summer Institute in the Arts and Humanities will explore how we understand, interpret and represent disease ‘outbreaks.’ Outbreak stories and their associated images, maps, and movies tend to have a predictable structure that make disease threats appear external and foreign, obscuring the more complex connections between populations. Specifically, figures like ‘pestilent foreigners,’ ‘exotic animals’ or ‘heroic disease detectives’ tend to obscure global food systems, economic ties, and ecological disruptions that either create vulnerability or actually breed new diseases. How then can we re-map such ties and re-tell disease stories in ways that also enable the re-imagination of global health?

Examples such as SARS, H1N1, H5N1, HIV/AIDS, and Colony Collapse Disorder provide examples of how the complex origins of various diseases get simplified in contemporary accounts. Restoring other contexts to these stories – by, for instance, considering the cultural relations between humans and animals, or what we eat and how we produce food – allows us to reimagine how outbreaks evolve and what they mean. How do such political, geographical, temporal, and cultural forces shape the course of outbreaks and how we understand them? How do outbreaks conjure dreams of control, management, and security, on the one hand, and how do these compute with diverse desires for flourishing, community, and care for self and others? As we seek other ways of accounting for outbreaks, we’ll look to alternative stories of global diffusion and dissemination, like, for example, the spread of inventions.

Students will develop original research projects that re-depict or re-tell the story of a particular outbreak in ways that challenge traditional borders of life and death, health and disease, security and danger. Potential areas of inquiry include geographies of blame (e.g. “Bird Flu” from Asia, “Swine Flu” from Mexico), ethics controversies over animal research, popular film representations of outbreaks, the politics and economics of disease control, to name only a few possibilities. Students may develop their research through methods that include ethnography, digital humanities, textual and media analyses, critical readings of texts, geo-histories, and/or critical cartographies. Research products might take diverse forms, including essays, art, maps, multimedia exhibits, or a zine. But all these experiments in re-presentation will ultimately be evaluated in terms of how well they enable us to reimagine new possibilities for global health.
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Teaching Team

Luke Bergmann

Geography | lrb9[at]

On his way to becoming an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, Luke spent time studying complexity, physics, cultural theory, and the theoretical humanities. For Luke, the humanities are valuable not only for their specific subject material, but for the ways in which they encourage us to ask questions. Exploring uneven landscapes of viral emergence in the global South has led him to narrative collaborations that weave together accounts of history, genetics, trade, finance, agribusiness, urbanization, and cultural practices. He is also interested in geographical imaginaries of ‘environment’ that are adequate an era of globalization – when the forests and fields that are most connected to our lives may be on the other side of the world. He is presently teaching a course at the intersection of critical cartography and the digital humanities.

María Elena García

Comparative History of Ideas and Jackson School of International Studies | meg71[at]

María Elena García is an associate professor in the Comparative History of Ideas and the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. She received her PhD in Anthropology at Brown University and has been a Mellon Fellow at Wesleyan University and Tufts University. Her first book, Making Indigenous Citizens: Identities, Development, and Multicultural Activism in Peru (Stanford, 2005) examines Indigenous politics and multicultural activism in Peru. Her work on Indigeneity and interspecies politics in the Andes has appeared in multiple edited volumes and journals such as Anthropology Now, Anthropological Quarterly, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, Latin American Perspectives, and Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies. Her second book project, Cuy Politics, explores the cultural politics of guinea pig lives and deaths in Andean communities, breeding farms, laboratories, and markets.

Celia Lowe

Anthropology and Jackson School of International Studies | lowe[at]

Celia Lowe is Associate Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at the University of Washington. She works in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, in the the field of post-colonial science studies, and her main interest is in the travels of biological and other forms of scientific knowledge between EuroAmerica and Southeast Asia. She published her book, Wild Profusion: Biodiversity Conservation in an Indonesian Archipelago with Princeton University Press, and has published in Cultural Anthropology, positions: east asia cultures critique, Bijdragen tot de Taal, Land, en Volkenkunde, and in several edited volumes. In addition to this work, she is interested in practices of scholarly collaboration in the social sciences between US-based and Southeast Asian scholars. She has published on collaborative knowledge production in Southeast Asia as both a single author and with her colleague, Indonesian anthropologist Suraya Affif. She has also consulted with the Ford Foundation and the Asian University for Women in this field. Her current research concerns biosecurity and the production of risk discourse in relation to avian influenza in Indonesia.

Matthew Sparke

Geography, Jackson School of International Studies, and Global Health | sparke[at]

Matthew Sparke is a Professor of Geography and International Studies, and Director of Integrated Social Sciences at the University of Washington. He is the author of Introducing Globalization: Ties, Tensions and Uneven Integration (Oxford: Blackwell-Wiley, 2013), and In the Space of Theory: Postfoundational Geographies of the Nation-State (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005). He has also published over 75 articles, essays and reviews on topics relating to global health, neoliberalism, governance and mapping, including the online mapping of influenza. He is currently working on a new book with Katharyne Mitchell entitled The New Washington Consensus: Education, Global Health and the Rise of Philanthrocapitalism.

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