Epidemics make us keenly aware of our multispecies distributions: of changes to our microbial makeup, of the mediums (body fluids to the elements) that enable transmission. While our body makes us aware of fevers and aches, we need technical mediation beyond the everyday thermometer to track and understand changing microbial-human relations. Epidemic media—a range of technologies, microscopes to PCR machines—are the subject of Bishnupriya Ghosh’s book, The Virus Touch: Theorizing Epidemic Media. Drawing on two research sites thousands of miles apart yet embedded in the global biomedical complex—a retrovirus laboratory at the University of Washington, Seattle, and a modest clinical point of care at the Humsafar offices in Mumbai—Ghosh considers how the ordinary technology of the “blood file” (samples, data, and pictures) makes the medium intelligible as a milieu.
Bishnupriya Ghosh is Professor of Global Studies and English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her first two books, When Borne Across: Literary Cosmopolitics in the Contemporary Indian Novel (Rutgers University Press, 2004) and Global Icons: Apertures to the Popular (Duke University Press, 2011), addressed cultures of globalization. Her recent work includes the co-edited Routledge Companion to Media and Risk (Routledge, 2020) and a new monograph on viral emergence, The Virus Touch: Theorizing Epidemic Media.
Sponsored by the IHC’s South Asian Religions and Cultures Research Focus Group