Epidemics as Events and as Crises

Comparing Two Plague Outbreaks in Manchuria (1910–11 and 1920–21)

in The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology
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  • 1 University of Cambridge cl537@cam.ac.uk
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This article draws on Alain Badiou's notion of the event and on Michel Foucault's critique of the notion of crisis in comparing two pneumonic plague outbreaks in Manchuria. It is argued that the two epidemics, although apparently involving the same pathogen and geographical region, cannot be treated as analogous. The article approaches the Manchurian pneumonic plague epidemic of 1910–11 as an event, and the Manchurian pneumonic plague epidemic of 1920–21 as a crisis, stressing that the crucial difference between the two lies with the way in which they produced and reproduced biopolitical subjects.

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