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Stockpiling as a Technique of Preparedness. Conserving the Past for an Unpredictable Future

Frédéric Keck, CNRS
Discussant: Andrew Lakoff (USC, and ISG, UCLA)

Andrew Lakoff has identified stockpiling as one of the techniques through which contemporary societies are preparing for a catastrophic event whose probability is yet unknown. To prepare for flu pandemic, governments are stockpiling antivirals, vaccines and masks that would mitigate its effect once it starts. I propose to extend the term from its use as a technique of risk management to consider it more generally as a mode of knowledge on nature. If “nature’s laboratories are opened 24 hours”, as some biologists say, it is necessary to stockpile all mutations of viruses to identify a new virus when it appears. The issue if stockpiling thus connects to the question of the use of big data : how to constitute biobanks so large that they give meaning to events that are yet unknown ? I will discuss the work of Alain Testart who identified stockpiling as a technique that marked a stage between hunting and pastoral societies, constituting the first forms of inequality before the advent of land property. How does the competition between stockpiling agencies reveal tensions between scientists below the issue of the property of biobanks ? Considering microbiologists as sentinels of flu preparedness, I will look at the way their data banks situate them at the border between humans and animals, by the simulation of mutations of pathogens crossing these borders. I will raise issues of time, space and inter-species relations in the management of zoonotic pathogens at the level of global health.

Friday, April 4, 2014
1:00 PM - 2:30 PM
Los Angeles, CA, 2125 Rolfe Hall

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