Bird flu biopower: Strategies for multispecies coexistence in Việt Nam

by Natalie Porter

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By Natalie PorterFull Article: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/amet.12010/abstract

Outbreaks of SARS, swine flu, and avian influenza have prompted a “One Health” effort to control diseases transmitted between species. Using ethnographic observations from Việt Nam, I reveal how avian flu transforms strategies for living in light of human vulnerability to animals. Positing a multispecies approach to biopower, I argue that techniques for safeguarding human–animal collectivities confront heterogeneous moral codes surrounding animals’ role in knowledge hierarchies, village economies, and notions of individual worth. This analysis provides a framework for reconceptualizing biopower in relation to emerging diseases and reenvisions the role of animals in the politics of life itself.

A UNICEF avian influenza communications poster warns Vietnamese children against touching sick or dead poultry. Credit: United Nations Children’s Fund, Việt Nam.
A UNICEF avian influenza communications poster warns Vietnamese children against touching sick or dead poultry. Credit: United Nations Children’s Fund, Việt Nam.

A UNICEF avian influenza communications poster warns Vietnamese children against touching sick or dead poultry. Credit: United Nations Children’s Fund, Việt Nam.