How China Became the "Cradle of Smallpox": Transformations in Discourse

Ari Heinrich

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    From the perspective of the twenty-first century, the World Health Assem-bly's 1980 declaration that smallpox had been completely eradicated looks naive — even hopelessly so. Not only has the declaration been compromised by the threat of bioterrorism, the narrative conceit of humanism on which it was grounded (the romance of man over nature, the desire for an unam-biguous resolution) has been severely undermined. The declaration reveals a deep-seated desire on the part of its authors to bring an end to a horrible disease, but it also conceals an impulse to apply narrative closure on a grand scale, to make of smallpox a story with a conclusion — or a conclusion with a story, as the case may be. At least some of the unsettling power of the bioterrorism threat, in other words, goes beyond the material threat of the reeruption of the disease to the substantially troubling symbolic or ideologi-cal lack of narrative closure that such a reemergence implies.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)7-34
    JournalPositions: East Asia Cultures Critique
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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