Governing through Immunity: Techniques and Politics of COVID-19 Management

Btihaj Ajana is delivering an online keynote for the Hong Kong-based Writing Machine Collective.

Abstract: Since the outbreak of Covid-19 was officially declared as global pandemic in 2020, many countries around the world have rushed to implement myriad initiatives and technological solutions to manage and contain the spread of coronavirus. From tracking apps and facial recognition systems to electronic bracelets and vaccine passports, Covid-19 has certainly intensified the uptake and development of various digital technologies and surveillance techniques.

In this talk, Ajana examines the political rationalities underpinning the governance of Covid-19 as well as some of the technological dispositifs that have been put to work to manage the pandemic. Building on the work of Roberto Esposito as well as literature from the philosophy of science, Ajana argues that much of the technologically mediated governance of Covid-19 is taking place through the prism of “immunity”. Here, the concept of immunity is considered not only as a medical concept or a biological reality but also as a biopolitical rationality that structures the boundaries between self and other, between the inside and the outside. Following this, Ajana considers some of the ethical issues pertaining to the “immunitarian politics” of Covid-19.


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