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Viral Imaginaries: Infectious Disease and Society in Contemporary China (5-6 December 2013)

China is often represented in the West as a ‘hot spot’ in the ‘battle’ against emerging infectious diseases. Outbreaks of Avian Influenza in 1997 and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002/3 drew the world’s attention to the region’s vulnerabilities. International public health reports and scientific publications, newspaper articles, fictional accounts, and the movies, invariably depict China as the ‘frontline’: a place where disease thrives, and where social, political, and economic forces are drivers of an imminent global pandemic. Viral Imaginaries seeks to challenge these stereotypes by asking: How do the storylines, images, and identities of infectious diseases differ in China and the West? What are the consequences for global health of these differences? How are biomedicine and public health intertwined in China with issues of social order and identity? And to what extent has an increasingly globalized world, characterized by social media, transformed the ways in which local disease events are understood and responded to? The conference brings together scholars from a wide range of disciplines, including the history of health, cultural and media studies, comparative literature, anthropology, and political science, to reconsider the critical role that infectious diseases have played in the constitution of – and contestation over – national imaginaries. The aim is to explore disease as a ‘viral’ phenomenon; that is, in relation to diffusions of information, ideas, and affects, through socio-cultural networks. The focus is on the circulation of discourses of health and disease, and on representations of infectious threats as a ‘grammar of difference’ in the formation of regional, national, and transnational identities. Viral Imaginaries thus aims to furnish a platform for exploring the multi-dimensionality of current and future epidemics.

Date: 5-6 December 2013

Venue: Arts Academic Conference Room, Room 436, 4F, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, The University of Hong Kong

Programme: 5 December 2013 10:00am – 12:45pm Section I: Framing Disease 2:15pm – 4:30pm Session II: National and Global Imaginaries

6 December 2013 9:30am – 11:45am Session III: Spillovers 2:00pm – 3:30pm Session IV: Round Table Discussion

Participants include: Dr. Corey Byrnes (University of California, Santa Barbara), Professor Richard Fielding (University of Hong Kong), Dr. Ari Heinrich (University of California, San Diego & University of Sydney), Dr. Shao-hua Liu (Academia Sinica), Dr. Christos Lynteris (University of Cambridge), Professor Gina Marchetti (University of Hong Kong), Dr. Jeff Martin (University of Hong Kong), Dr. Carlos Rojas (Duke University), Dr. Shao Jing (Nanjing University), and Professor Priscilla Wald (Duke University). * The Conference is supported by the Hsu Long-sing Research Fund through the Faculty of Arts at HKU. All Welcome. For more information and registration: Contact: or


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