Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb

Epidemic Empire: Colonialism, Contagion, and Terror 1817-2020

University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 2021, 412 pp., $35.00 pb
ISBN 9780226739359

Reviewed by Joshua Moufawad-Paul

Marx and Philosophy Review of Books | April 27, 2021

A poetics of contagion flourished throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Language regarding literal epidemic measures (quarantine, isolation, personal protective equipment, hygiene, vaccines, etc.) intermingled with figurative language about nations and populations: orientalist claims regarding the source of the virus, migrants as vectors of transmission, quasi-Nietzschean interpretations of ‘herd immunity’. Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb’s Epidemic Empire demonstrates that this ‘disease poetics’ has been part of global capitalism since its emergence. The thinking of contagion is bound up with how a global imperialism in development imagined insurgency alongside epidemics, how the study of counter-insurgency and the study of epidemiology were entangled. Hence, it is difficult to separate the political figuration of contagion from medical discourse.

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