Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Gislason, M.K. (2013), West Nile virus: the production of a public health pandemic. Sociology of Health & Illness, 35: 188-199. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9566.2012.01535.x

open access

The West Nile virus (WNV), as it was presented in the texts and discourses on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) website during its initial emergence, was an effect of the kinds of knowledge, techniques of power and disciplinary apparatuses that operate on that website and in society. With reference to Michel Foucault’s relations of power, this article offers an approach for translating theories of power into techniques and technologies of power that can be used to conduct a social construction discourse analysis, and gives examples from the use of surveillance, normalisation, exclusion and regulation in PHAC’s responses to the WNV epidemic in Canada. This study concludes with the assertion that shifting the ways in which social and political relations of power contour public health theories and practice is crucial. The present moment requires the development of global health responses to pandemics that are rooted less in the proliferation of apparatuses of control and more in epidemiological innovations and integrated, multi‐perspectival research approaches to infectious diseases research, and in the governance of pandemic control and prevention initiatives.

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