Transmissions: Public Health Campaigns and Ambient Media in the Era of Global Health under US Health Security


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Visual and Cultural Studies


In 1989, US government scientists invented a new disease concept: Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs) describes diseases that were hitherto unknown to humankind, or which have re-surfaced after a period of eradication. This dissertation examines how EIDs have inaugurated an era of health campaigns that utilize images, media forms, and networks to manage global disease flows in an effort to secure US national health. It examines representations of EIDs that naturalize disease as problems of spatial, interspecies, and temporal boundary management, considering how media and communications technologies attend to these boundaries while communicating health threats. Prodding health campaigns according to critical shifts in visual technologies, life-sciences, epidemiology, media, and communications infrastructures uncovers how these campaigns create “atmospheres of catastrophe”—visual ecologies evoking a constant, low-grade state of crisis. Thus, global health is set in tension with US “pathogenic nation-building”—the forging of national solidarity around pandemic fear and avoidance.