Why are humans so scared by flu? A year after the international authorities’ mobilization against the H1N1 pandemic virus, Frédéric Keck, a young French anthropologist, tried to understand the reasons of this globalized fear. He shows that a catastrophic representation of a world seized by pandemic flu has transformed the relations between humans and animals. Working with stockbreeders, birdwatchers, veterinarians, microbiologists, epidemiologists, physicians, journalists but also religious and political authorities, the author relates how emerging infectious diseases have transformed the perception of the world. He showed that “avian”and “swine” flu reveal a fear of animals that takes its origins in ancient thoughts on domestication. But this fear is not structured in the same way in Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Cairo or Djakarta, because the surveillance and control systems are not the same in these different cities. From farmers to consumers, from mass culling of animals to a potential pandemic, this overview of global emerging viruses, of the animals who transmit them and of the humans who try to protect themselves is a fascinating travel diary.
Un monde grippé. Flammarion 2010. ISBN: 978-2-0812-4177-0. A copy of this book in French is available at HKU-PRC.
Mr Frédéric Keck is a social anthropologist at the CNRS in Paris who joined HKU-Pasteur Research Centre in 2008-2009. He worked on a project entitled "When animals make humans sick. A comparative anthropology of Avian Flu", supported by a grant from the Fyssen Foundation. In February 22-23, 2009 he co-organized with HKU-PRC and the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China (CEFC) a conference entitled “Avian Flu: Social and Anthropological Perspectives” which opened the way for an anthropological analysis of Avian Flu, integrating all the aspects of this global phenomenon : environmental, biological, social and psychological. He now works on animal surveillance in bird reserves in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.