i n t roduc t ion
Cinema and Hygiene
From World War Two and the Korean conflict health education prospered
as the physical and mental defectiveness of the nation was revealed.
richard k. means, A History of Health Education in the United States
visible symptoms and technologies of representation
Recent attempts to halt the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome
(sars) in China (in 2003) and foot-and-mouth disease in western Europe
(in 2001) have been undermined by the invisibility of contagion. Spread
by airborne viruses capable of surviving transcontinental travel, these out-
breaks have prompted widespread efforts to fortify local and global bound-
aries against the flow of disease. The increasing prevalence of infectious
disease pandemics has provoked extensive commentary on both the impos-
sibility of maintaining national boundaries in the era of globalization and
on the medieval insularity of the quarantine measures enacted against con-
taminated regions. This contrast between postmodern global interconnect-
edness and premodern isolationism highlights the extent to which the ever-
expanding culture of surveillance faces a unique representational challenge
in the realm of public health. Despite the adoption of painstaking strategies
for eliminating diseases by eliminating infected animals and quarantining
infected people, efforts to halt the flow of contagion have been frustrated by
the difficulty of visually representing the virus. While images of slaughtered
animals, face masks, and decontamination procedures at airports have filled
the media coverage of these epidemics, the impossibility of ascertaining the
precise location of the virus until after the fact makes the threat of a new
outbreak seem ever present.
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