Subproject A08 — Administrating Transnational Health Crises: Security Routines and the Regulation of Dynamics of Contagion
second funding stage (2018-2021)
The subproject takes the interaction between the perception of transnational health crises and the formation of legal-administrative processes to deal with these crises into account. On the one hand, it analyses the security-related problematisation of the transnational dimension of a health crisis, e.g. lacking of border control, lacking of medical care or as threat to the world trade (crises heuristics). On the other hand, it focuses on the administrative regulations and techniques whose are applied to cope with a health crisis.
In dealing with emergencies and crises international political Sociology has prominently invoked the analytic of a “state of exception”. In this framework the suspension of rules, norms and routines is considered to be the defining feature of situations characterized by existential threat. Our research project seeks to test the supplementary hypothesis – the hypothesis that the problematisation of crises may also generate rules and procedures which stabilise routines of security. It asks: How are administrative protocols of security being activated, produced or modified during crisis situations?
This guiding question will be applied to the control of pandemic crises. Since two decades or so, a global health security dispositif has taken shape in dealing with Emerging Infectious Diseases such as SARS, Avian Influenza or Ebola. Our research project investigates the interrelation between the modes of perceiving transnational health crises and the modes of acting on them in the field of global law and administration:
On the one hand, it examines the ways in which the transnational dimension of crises is being problematized and perceived as a matter of security: Is it conceived of in terms of inadequate border controls? Poor local health care systems? Negative effects on global trade? The need to mobilise humanitarian aid? We intend to look at the administrative frameworks through which situations are being observed as crises and the corresponding techniques of datafication through which they are rendered legible.
On the other hand, the project elaborates the regulatory means which are implemented to govern the crisis. It explores the administrative media and juridical protocols designed to make the government of health security operative: procedural systems and classificatory schemes, acts of writing and forms of registration, certificates and standards. We intend to look at how these administrative media and juridical protocols are key in assembling a governmental topology in a planetary political environment.
The project consists of two case studies. The first case study, conducted by a doctoral student, analyses how the determination of what counts as a “public health emergency” has changed during the last decade and how this change is linked to a transformation of legal-administrative processes. The formula of the “public health emergency” is not only central in the legal architecture or the International Health Regulations (2005) of the WHO. It functions akin to a relay through which the regulation of global health security reaches into local, national and regional settings. The case study elaborates how administrative practices of perceiving and processing transnational crises are constantly being re-assembled around this nodal point. It tests the hypothesis that the Ebola crisis of 2014 constitutes a rupture within the regime of global health security by re-inscribing humanitarian concerns into the security agenda. The related transformation of the administrative global health apparatuses started to manifest itself in the new Health Emergency Programme of the WHO.
The second case study, conducted by the principle investigator, analyses how the problematization of antimicrobial resistance corresponds with the emergence of new administrative assemblages. The action plans put forward by the European Commission (2011) and the WHO (2015) indicate an ecological turn in understanding health and disease security. Accordingly, the case study seeks to investigate the ways in which the material circulations between humans, animals, plants, soil and the hydrological circle enter the field of legal administrative practice: How do the routines of health security become entwined with the protocols of environmental security?
In sum, the research project aims at investigating the juris-generative effects of global health crises. Instead of a priori identifying emergency situations with “legal black holes”, it is interested in how they also function as regulatory laboratories in which administrative assemblages are being developed and tested. This change in analytical perspective will contribute to elucidating the latest transformations of global health security.