Epidemic entanglements: Exploring the interrelation of cities and infectious disease

Interdisciplinary conference 24-25th July 2014
Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology
Goethe University Frankfurt / Main

The twenty-first century has thus far been marked by emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases: malaria, SARS, FMD, avian flu, HIV, MDR-tuberculosis, MERS-CoV and dengue pose some of the greatest challenges to health care worldwide.

As the example of SARS has aptly illustrated, cities, with their high population density, complex human-animal interfaces and global connectivity, seem to play a crucial role in the emergence and distribution, but also in the management of pathogens. Rising poverty and often poor sanitary conditions provide a fertile breeding ground for infectious disease outbreaks. Research on the complexity of disease ecologies has shown how urban areas and their hinterlands integrate each other mutually through processes of exchange and change: norms, standards and regulations as well as flows of commodities, animals, water, people and pathogens intermingle within and among cities, questioning any attempt to understand the urban as bounded or determinate space. These flows assemble the city as a place of becoming and uncertainty. Furthermore, the messy nature of globalised infectious disease aetiologies not only poses a threat to numerous city dwellers worldwide, but might contest conventional models of urban health governance, its institutional routines and norms.

Given the complexity and fragmentation of these epidemic entanglements, serious questions remain: How do categories of space, the urban or the local impact on the way public health thinks about infectious disease control? How are human-animal-pathogen interfaces enacted differently in various contexts? How are current ontological conceptions of the city reconfigured by locating biological agents inside the social production of urban space?
The interdisciplinary conference aims to open up the interrelation between cities and infectious disease as a focal point of interest for the social, medical and political sciences.

  • Venue: Goethe University Frankfurt / Main, Campus Westend, IG 411, Grüneburgplatz 1, 60323 Frankfurt / Main
  • Registration: The conference is free of charge. Registration via email is required: hall@em.uni-frankfurt.de
  • Organisation: Meike Wolf and Kevin Hall (Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology, Goethe University Frankfurt / Main)

Meike Wolf
Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology
Goethe-University Frankfurt
Grüneburgplatz 1
60323 Frankfurt am Main
Email: meike.wolf@em.uni-frankfurt.de

Conference Schedule

Thursday, 24th July

12:30Welcome (Iwo Amelung, Dean of the Faculty)
Introduction (Meike Wolf and Kevin Hall, Goethe University Frankfurt / Main)

11:00 Registration

Session 1 – Disease Ecologies (Chair: Meike Wolf)

13:00 The politics of entanglement in urban Nicaragua’s dengue epidemics (Alex Nading, Franklin & Marshall College)
13:30 Typhoid fever: the murderous product of the natural, settlement and disease ecologies that developed in nineteenth century Prahran (Natasha Szuhan, University of Melbourne)
14:00 Beyond bioinsecurities? Reflections on endemic human-virus relations (Beth Greenhough, Queen Mary University of London)
14:30 Coffee break

Session 2 – Immunity and Public Health (Chair: Britta Lundgren)

14:45 Resistant bodies: local biologies of malaria and the question of resistance / immunity (Uli Beisel, University of Bayreuth)
15:15 Standardization of vaccination in the context of democratization of expertise (Els Geelen, Klasien Horstmann, Hans van Vliet, Pieter de Hoogh, University of Maastricht)
15:45 Disease securing and stigmatisation during the 2005-2007 chikungunya epidemic in Réunion (Karine Aasgard Jansen, Umeå University)
16:15 Coffee break

Session 3 – Politics of Inclusion / Politics of Exclusion (Chair: Andrew Donaldson)

16:30 Biosecurity and the city. Post-SARS Hong Kong and the governing of un/healthy bodies (Henning Füller, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg)
17:00 Buenos Aires at the time of cholera. 1867-1869. Fear, piety and urban space (Antonio Carbone, Center for Metropolitan Studies TU Berlin)
17:30 Brothels, hostals and hospitals: the city streets of syphilis in early 20th century Lisbon (Christiana Bastos, University of Lisbon)
19:30 Conference dinner

Friday, 25th July

Session 4 – Articulations of Emergence (Chair: Kevin Hall)

09:00 Emerging infectious diseases: challenges for understanding and communication of risks (Márcia Grisotti, Federal University of Santa Catarina)
09:30 Commerce or containment? Avian flu and the politics of poultry market closures in Hanoi (Natalie Porter, University of New Hampshire)
10:00 Perspectives and problems of digital epidemiology (Klaus Scheuermann, Leon Hempel (TU Berlin), Edward Velasco, Tim Eckmanns (Robert Koch Institute))
10:30 Hong Kong as a sentinel post for pandemic flu (Frédéric Keck, Laboratoire d’anthropologie sociale / Musée du quai Branly)
11:00 Coffee break

Session 5 – Biosecurity and Preparedness (Chair: Uli Beisel)

11:30 Cities in an age of biosecurity: infrastructures, ecologies and assemblage (Andrew Donaldson, Newcastle University)
12:00 The object of regulation: tending the tensions of food safety (Nick Bingham, Open Universit)
12:30 Zombie survival: preparing for and acting upon imagined epidemics (Maximilian Mehner, Philipps-Universität Marburg)
13:00 Lunch

Session 6 – International Law and Global Health (Chair: Henning Füller)

13:45 Back to the League of Nations – evaluation of the environmental regime and the campaign against diseases and plagues: 1919-1939 (Omer Aloni, Tel Aviv University)
14:15 Regulating epidemic space: the nomos of global circulation (Sven Opitz, Universität Hamburg)
14:45 Wrap up
15:00 End