Governing future potential biothreats: Toward an anthropology of uncertainty

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Through analysis of preparedness for pandemic influenza in Israel, I explore how future uncertainty is conceptualized and the various practices put into action to deal with it. In particular, I discuss the emergence of a new type of uncertainty-potential uncertainty-and three technologies employed to cope with it: risk technology, preparedness technology, and event technology. Event technology emerges in the preparations for a potential uncertainty event- such as pandemic influenza. In contrast with the other two technologies, it acknowledges the problem of potential uncertainty and retains uncertainty through its action. Thus, uncertainty is not solely linked to the appearance of new risks in the world, which is the basis of the risk society approach (e.g., Beck 1992; Giddens 2000), nor is it related to the impossibility of calculating these risks, as the preparedness paradigm (e.g., Lakoff 2008) and science and technology studies argue. Rather, uncertainty underpins a technology through which the future, although not reducible to calculable forms, can still be governed. Employing the concept of potential uncertainty and considering the various technologies applied to management of the future allow for a more thorough discussion of problems of future uncertainty with which current societies are preoccupied.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


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