A dialogue between Stéphanie Boulard and Frédéric Keck about Keck’s newest book.
In Avian Reservoirs: Virus Hunters and Birdwatchers in Chinese Sentinel Posts (Les sentinelles des pandémies : Chasseurs de virus et observateurs d’oiseaux aux frontières de la Chine), Keck explores how Chinese societies learned to prepare for a catastrophic outbreak, with “sentinel” chickens in poultry farms, simulations of pandemics in hospitals, and stockpiling masks, vaccines, and antivirals by national states and multinational companies. Can we see virologists as “hunters” of microbes or viruses? How do virologists get along with ornithologists? The anthropology of hunter-gatherer societies allows us to reassess this figure of the hunter-tracker. The virologist isn’t just someone who observes invisible wild entities under the microscope: more than that, they seek to adopt the point of view of birds, bats, and monkeys. The virus is a warning signal that affects animals; the “hunter” follows its transmission from birds to pigs to humans, or bats to pangolins to humans. This tracking is a kind of “hunting,” and it sees uncertainty in relationships with animals.
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