Article ID: CBB933898213

Pandemic infrastructure: Epidemiology as compartmentalization (2021)


This article examines modes of containment and compartmentalization in epidemiology and pandemic response. Modern epidemiology is positioned as the key method in public health science and source of information for pandemic response policies. The epidemiological apparatus of observation works with tracking and sense-making techniques at the intersection of demography and biometrics. With late 20 th century technoscientific developments, epidemiology has acquired a particular form of outcomes research. This includes a particular infrastructural enactment of the concept of ‘population’, prompting specific modes of data capture and containment that also feature in today’s coronavirus dashboards. Building on genomics data repositories, epidemiological study designs mediate data recombination that repurposes existing databases and promotes capture-all techniques for viral surveillance. Focusing on the orderings enacted by the epidemiological techniques in their formation, legacies, and actualizations, I discuss how data-intensive biosurveillance and efforts to foster openness are currently transforming the ‘epidemiologic gaze’. As ‘capture-all’ technologies operate across heterogeneous worlds, they fail to capture the implications of inequitably distributed risks and benefits in global health. Analyzing the apparatus of observation and capture in epidemiology can make room for engaging differently with numerous devices toward more equitable public health responses.

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Authors & Contributors
Cambrosio, Alberto
Rogers, Susan Nadia
Poliana Maia
Justi, Rosaria
Monique Santos
Phillips, Christopher J.
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Social Studies of Science
Mefisto: Rivista di medicina, filosofia, storia
Science and Education
McGill University (Canada)
The University of North Carolina Press
University of California Press
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Medicine and society
Public health
Technoscience; science and technology studies
Time Periods
21st century
20th century, late
20th century
20th century, early
Latin America
Great Britain
New Zealand
South Korea
British Society for the History of Science
World Health Organization (WHO)

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