Epidemic Entanglements : Exploring the interrelation between cities and infectious disease

Interdiscipilinary Conference
24th - 25th July 2014

Goethe University Frankfurt / Main
Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology

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. Some areas, however, appear to be more prone to infectious disease outbreaks than others.

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. In addition, 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, taking place on various levels: 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 make their distant origins present and at the same time 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.

Thursday 24th July
11:00 - Registration
12:30 - Welcome (Iwo Amelung, Dean of the Faculty)
Introduction (Meike Wolf, Kevin Hall, Goethe University Frankfurt/Main)

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 murdrous 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 Horstman, Hans van Vliet, Pieter de Hoogh,
Maastricht University)
15:45 - Disease securing and stigmatisation during the 2005-2007 chikungunya epidemic in Réunion (Karine Aasgaard 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-Univerität 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, hostels and hospitals: the city streets of syphilis in early 20th century Lisbon (Cristiana Bastos, University of Lisbon)

19:30 - Conference Dinner

Friday 25th July

Session 4 - Articulation 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, Edward Velasco, Tim Eckmanns, Human Technology Lab TU Berlin / 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, New Castle University)
12:00 - The object of regulation: tending the tensions of food safety (Nick Bingham, Open University)
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

Goethe University Frankfurt / Main
Campus Westend, IG 311
Grüneburgplatz 1
60323 Frankfurt / Main

The conference is free of charge.
Registration via email is required:

Meike Wolf
Assistant professor
Tel: +49 69 798 32913

Kevin Hall
Research assistant
Tel: +49 69 798 32918

Insitute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology
Goethe University Frankfurt / Main
Grüneburgplatz 1
60323 Frankfurt / Main

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