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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 2. HIV/AIDS and Mchiatch Narratives of Morality and Citizenship

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Extract

Red Gold opens the section on the HIV/AIDS epidemic with the image of two men holding hands. A grave-sounding voiceover announces that the cultural exuberance about blood donations was dampened by a realization that “blood could be a deadly poison.” While the documentary mainly discusses how the AIDS epidemic affected hemophiliacs and other patients who relied on blood and blood products, the establishing shot signifies that the dangers of HIV/AIDS are connected within the public imagination to the fears of possible contamination. As “an epidemic of signification” (Treichler, 1999), HIV/AIDS is a pandemic that produces various signifying practices that reinforce cultural categories of morality and danger. In this chapter, I analyze the HIV/AIDS pandemic in its various cultural contexts. Using theoretical approaches of moral panic, discursive formation, and citizenship, I argue that cultural representations of HIV/AIDS construct narratives of morality and citizenship as categories of inclusion and exclusion in civic life.

Stanley Cohen (2002), in the book that introduced the concept of moral panic, describes a moment or a period of time when societies become subject to this phenomenon:

← 33 | 34 → A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to social values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media; the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people; socially accredited experts pronounce their diagnoses and solutions; ways of coping are evolved or (more often) resorted to;...

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