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Picture of The H5N1 Virus

The H5N1 Virus

Seeking Knowledge Justice in an (In)Secure World

Author(s): Philip R. Egert
Contributors: Philip Egert;

Book Description

This book is the first study of its kind that reveals the social justice linkages between three unique characteristics of the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus: namely, veterinary scourge, public health contagion fear, and potential bioterrorist weapon. With its extensive referencing, it will be invaluable for scholars of security studies, global public health, and international relations, as well as for professionals, diplomats, and practitioners with an interest in the relationship between global health security and social justice. Comprised of two major sections, the book examines the various representations of knowledge about the H5N1 virus. The first part explores the three major narratives that were used to describe the virus during its 20-year journey from 1996 to 2016. During this time, the virus multiplied its ontological status through narratives that described a localized animal virus, a global public health crisis, and finally an irrational contagion fear. The text’s second section describes in detail a unique aspect of the H5N1 virus’s journey as an emerging infectious disease—its representation as a potential weapon for bioterrorists. As a result, the US government attempted to secure knowledge about the H5N1 virus. This attempt produced a global debate between scientists and policy makers over how to balance the nation-state’s desire for security with the life sciences’ tradition of openly shared research. Known as the dual-use dilemma, this debate set up binaries of impossible reconciliation between the scientific and security communities. This book argues that the H5N1 dual-use dilemma obscures larger questions of justice, and proposes a new concept of justice, knowledge justice, as an alternate, more globally inclusive framework for exploring a socially just way out of the dilemma.


ISBN-13: 978-1-5275-4044-6
ISBN-10: 1-5275-4044-8
Date of Publication: 01/12/2019
Pages / Size: 197 / A5
Price: £58.99


Philip R. Egert received his MS and PhD degrees in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA. His research focuses on the nexus of biological dual-use research of concern and social justice concerns. He has over 35 years of experience with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapon systems as both a consultant and defense industry executive. His previous scholarly publications include A Rising Tide Does Not Lift All Boats Equally: Gender as Hazard in Disaster Planning and Response (2014) and Knowledge Justice: An Opportunity for Counter-expertise in Security vs. Science Debates (with Barbara L. Allen, 2017). He has also published work in a number of science and security publications, such as Defense One and The International Security Studies Forum. He is currently a Senior Director with Huntington Ingalls Industries.