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Pandemics and the Media

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Marina Levina

Offering a comprehensive analysis of mediated representations of global pandemics, this book engages with the construction, management, and classification of difference in the global context of a pandemic, to address what it means – culturally, politically, and economically – to live in an infected, diseased body. Marina Levina argues that mediated representations are essential in translating and making sense of difference as a category of subjectivity and as a mode of organizing and distributing change. Using textual analysis of media texts on pandemics and disease, she illustrates how they represent a larger mediascape that drafts stories of global instabilities and global health. Levina explains how the stories we tell about disease matter; that the media is instrumental in constructing and disseminating these stories; and that mediated narratives of pandemics are rooted in global flows of policies, commerce, and populations. Pandemics are, by definition, global crises.
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Chapter 1. Keeping the Blood Flowing: Disease, Community, and Public Imaginaries

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Extract

Blood is liquid life. It is the most intimate liquid and the most powerful medicine all of us can give and hope to receive. The idea of blood reaches deep into our consciousness. If you look at the history of blood, it is really the history of self-discovery of the human race. In the modern age to give blood is a powerful act of human charity, a universal expression of self-sacrifice in peace or war or in the face of disaster. Blood permeates all aspects of life, because blood is life. For better or worse if you control blood, you control life itself.

So begins PBS documentary Red Gold: The Epic Story of Blood. A four-hour documentary first aired in November 2002, it unfolds partly as a continuous Red Cross advertisement for blood donation, and partly as a story of communities created and destroyed by blood practices. Each hour-long section (Magic to Medicine, Blood and War, Tainted Blood, New Blood) reveals a multitude of cross-sections between blood research, social practices, scientific and historical change, and popular imagination. Along the way, it evokes the literal and figurative mysteries, the rituals, and the promises and dangers of blood. The documentary is based on the book by Douglas Starr titled Blood: An epic history of medicine and commerce (2002), and the author is on hand to structure much of the narrative. The documentary’s argument is that blood science, while frequently beneficial, is always potentially dangerous. It repeatedly argues that ← 7 | 8...

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