The Multispecies Kinesthetic: Theorizing Epidemic Media
One of the enduring legacies of the sudden emergence of pathogenic viruses (Hanta, Marburg, Ebola, and HIV) in the late twentieth century is the ecological orientation toward global pandemics. These periodic non-linear crisis-events appear unavoidable because of unabated anthropogenic change—everything from continuing habitat fragmentation (e.g. deforestation) to human practices (industrial agriculture to illegal wildlife trading). We know that 60.3% of emerging infectious disease events are zoonotic spillovers and, among these, 71.3% originate from wildlife. In context of this environmental turn, I examine epidemic media that track animal host traffic movements “in the wild” to compose a multispecies kinesthetic. Drawing on HIV epidemic media, I focus on two modalities of the multispecies kinesthetic. First, epidemiologist and wildlife biologist, Anne Laudisoit’s embedded tracking media as she follows primates at the DR Congo and Uganda border; and second, the curation of multispecies assemblies as “threatening ecologies” in the Feral Atlas project. The point is to theorize epidemic media as they strive for greater technical precision, but ultimately enable a sensuous multispecies entanglement.
Bishnupriya Ghosh teaches global media at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has published two monographs, When Borne Across: Literary Cosmopolitics in the Contemporary Indian Novel (Rutgers UP, 2004) and Global Icons: Apertures to the Popular (Duke Up, 2011) on global media cultures. Her current work on media, risk, and globalization includes the co-edited Routledge Companion to Media and Risk (Routledge 2020) and a new monograph, The Virus Touch: Theorizing Epidemic Media (under contract with Duke University Press).