Species War and the
Planetary Horizon of Security
Infectious disease is one of the great tragedies of living things—the struggle for exis-
tence between different forms of life. Man sees it from his own prejudiced point of
view; but clams, oysters, insects, fish, flowers, tobacco, potatoes, tomatoes, fruit,
shrubs, trees, have their own varieties of smallpox, measles, cancer, or tuberculosis.
Incessantly, the pitiless war goes on, without quarter or armistice—a nationalism of
species against species.
—HANS ZINSSER, Rats, Lice, and History, 1935
The annihilation of certain species is indeed in progress, but it is occurring through
the organization and exploitation of an artificial, infernal, virtually interminable sur-
—JACQUES DERRIDA, The Animal That Therefore I Am, 1997
Despite German American physician Hans Zinsser’s depiction of infectious
disease as a sign of nature’s timeless and intractable “nationalism of species
against species,” replete with tragic but inevitable consequences of death and
debility, I have argued in this book that disease interventions are political pro-
cesses, ones that link media, bodies, institutions, and medical technologies
in order to securitize privileged forms of circulation against the queer poten-
tials of interspecies contact. Such containment has been a consistent preroga-
tive of the US security state throughout its twentieth-century experiments in
trade, military, and territorial expansion, crossing a variety of institutional
projects to control space, engineer immunity, and enhance the scale of inter-
vention against infectious disease. Species are not, then, simply in protracted,
ancient struggles for survival. If—in today’s era of mass extinction and eco-
logical crisis—critical social and political theories are beginning to imagine
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