A Genealogy of Animal Diseases and Social Anthropology
Covid-19 is not the first animal disease that has been transmitted to humans. Contemporary veterinary public health uses three main techniques to manage such diseases: culling, vaccinating, and monitoring animals. Each of these techniques is underpinned by different ontological understandings of how microbes figure in relations between humans and animals. They thus speak to one of the core problems of the social sciences, and particularly social anthropology: how does social causality emerge out of physical causality? Reviewing how some of the most influential anthropological thinkers approached animal illnesses from bovine tuberculosis to mad cow disease, this lecture shows how our conceptions of the social have changed along with our understanding of the risk of transmission of animal diseases to humans, moving from prevention to precaution to preparedness.
Frédéric Keck, anthropologist and historian of philosophy, is a member of the Laboratory of Social Anthropology at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). His research investigates the role of microbes in mediating relations between human and non-human beings. After studying zoonotic pathogens in the context of avian influenza in Asia, he now explores relations between the living and the dead through a collaboration with African museums on the microbiome in human remains. He explores how microbes act as signs of environmental changes, and how non-human beings act as sentinels when they carry these microbes. His latest book is "Avian Reservoirs: Virus Hunters and Birdwatchers in Chinese Sentinel Posts" (2020).
Stefan H.E. Kaufmann (moderator) is the founding and now emeritus director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, a specialist in infection biology, and one of the world’s most highly cited scientists.
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