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Surveilling strange materialities: Categorisation in the evolving geographies of FMD biosecurity

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Andrew Donaldson, Dr David Murakami Wood


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The 2001 foot and mouth disease (FMD) epidemic in the United Kingdom resulted in the popularisation of the concept of biosecurity. At its most basic, biosecurity refers to simple cleansing and disinfecting, but during the FMD epidemic it became associated with a powerful system of surveillance. We characterise surveillance as a thing in itself, a mode of ordering that can be added to others. The establishment and maintenance of categories are fundamental to the practice of surveillance, but social studies of surveillance have not yet fully realised the way such categorisation operates within the nonhuman and the spatial. Strange materialities are those things which do not quite belong within a particular order. We examine the actions of surveillance in the world of strange materialities that was the FMD epidemic. Here we see that surveillant practices acted on the non-human FMD virus by constructing territories to control humans. Surveillance seems to proceed as the translation of a worldview (a system of categorisation) into materiality and we conclude with some thoughts on what this may mean for geographical studies of technical, biological, and human materialities in which surveillant processes are at work.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Donaldson A, Wood D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Year: 2004

Volume: 22

Issue: 3

Pages: 373-391

ISSN (print): 0263-7758

ISSN (electronic): 1472-3433

Publisher: Pion Ltd


DOI: 10.1068/d334t


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