KREIMER pablo Rafael
Who’s afraid of Ebola? Epidemic fires and locative fears in the Information Age
SHRUM, WESLEY; AGGREY, JOHN; CAMPOS, ANDRE; PAMPLONA DA COSTA, JANAINA; JOSEPH, JAN; KREIMER, PABLO
SOCIAL STUDIES OF SCIENCE
SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD
Epidemics have traditionally been viewed as the widespread occurrence of infectious disease within a community, or a sudden increase above what is typical. But modern epidemics are both more and less than the diffusion of viral entities. We argue that epidemics are "fire objects", using a term coined by Law and Singleton: They generate locative fears through encounters that focus attention on entities that are unknown or imprecisely known, transforming spaces and humans into indeterminate dangers, alternating appearance and absence. The Ebola epidemic of 2014 had more complex impacts than the number of infections would suggest. We employ multi-sited qualitative interviews to argue that locative fear is the essence of modern global epidemics. In the discussion we contrast Ebola with both the Zika epidemic that followed and the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.