Introduction: Epidemics, history, and the present

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Responses to avian flu, as well as to other recent epidemics and events, provide a backdrop of the geographic and historical investigations of disease. The H5N1 virus itself, meanwhile, has garnered widespread media coverage and intense institutional surveillance of its geographic reach and potential mutability into a human-based pathogen, an exercise that inevitably galvanizes greater fear as well as visibility with picture of dead birds and ailing Asian children. A redefined environment could have dynamic, shifting boundaries to encompass social movements and collective action, communities of identity or imagination rather than geographic proximity, political processes that shape nature, flows of knowledge, technology, and resources, and multiple potential historical contexts. The dynamic environment empowers our narratives to transcend the biological definition of disease, the biomedical focus on the individual, the narrowly bounded local social-cultural geography, and the artificial epidemiological or demographic constitution of populations, and the pretense of universality and equality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-13
Number of pages7
JournalHistorical Geography
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006


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