Accepted paper:

Biosecurity in the US: 'the scientific' and 'the American' in critical perspective

Authors:

Limor Samimian-Darash (Hebrew University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I analyze the problem of biosecurity in the US to highlight the double bind that emerges when one sees science and the US as both global and noncultural. I focus especially on research into the H5N1 ('bird flu') virus, and reconstruct this perceptual framing in two ways.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I analyze the problem of biosecurity in the US to highlight the double bind that emerges when one sees science and the US as both global and noncultural. I focus especially on research into the H5N1 ('bird flu') virus, and reconstruct this perceptual framing in two ways. First, I show how the disconnect between science and security reflects the scientific practice of externalizing 'the social' from the bounded domain of scientific interest and responsibility. Thus, although anthropological literature has focused on how science has become more accountable and auditable to society, and how the scientific mode of knowledge production internalizes, or even reinvents, 'the social' to better justify the knowledge it produces, I show that in a particular U.S. case of biosecurity this shift appears only temporarily and discursively. In action, the case I consider expresses a process of externalization of security (and society) from science and scientific responsibility. Second, although this research is based in and on the US, I show that the scientists and other subjects involved in the issue do not refer to themselves as engaging with a local problem but, rather, with a manifestation of a global problem. Only when international actors respond to US actions (as in the case of H5N1) is the US discourse on the problem understood as but one possible perspective.

panel P050
Does the future of anthropology not include the USA as a field site (except as 'anthropology at home')?