Building Biocontainment, Regulating Race: Scientific Infrastructures for American Safety against Emerging Diseases


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




From Ebola to the coronavirus, the US biosecurity project has invested in networks of laboratory infrastructures aimed at protecting the nation from emerging diseases overseas. In the wake of the “twin pandemics” of the coronavirus and systemic racism, this dissertation examines how transnational racial geographies intersect with the ongoing fortification of biocontainment design in American everyday life. Through archival research, media analysis, and fieldwork with laboratory architects and public health experts, this project tracks the extension of safety standards, technologies, and ideologies – historically formulated to protect white male scientists – to marginalized groups during COVID-19. The dissertation argues that existing emerging disease biocontainment efforts structurally obscure the needs and safety of non-white subjects, materially reinforcing the color line. Reorienting scholarly attention to anticipatory endeavors, this project outlines ways to build safety and equity beyond representational parity and addressing harm.