Aihwa Ong is Robert H. Lowie Distinguished Chair in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, the author of
“Viruses Don’t Carry Passports”
This chapter discusses the rise of Singapore as a potential to provide a CDC-like center for a tropical region that is teeming with deadly viruses. In the aftermath of the SARS pandemic, the Duke-NUS Graduate School of Medicine established a program to deal with epidemiological dangers that are still unknown, that is, the “newly emerging infectious diseases” that threaten the region and beyond. Singapore's role in fighting infectious diseases draws most recently from the island's experiences in combating SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and bringing the epidemic under control within months. In this climate of health vigilance, there was increased focus on the mutability of viruses (SARS, avian flu virus, etc.) and worries about rapid nonhuman to human transmission in a region densely interlinked by commerce, migration, travel, and environmental vectors. The chapter frames the battle against tropical diseases as an emerging biosecurity assemblage that shapes cascading scales of intervention. It identifies problems presented by the flows of “mutable mobiles”—deadly viruses, their animal and human carriers—as well as spatializing techniques from the molecular to the zoonotic to the national and global scales. In addition, international health, corporate, and U.S. military agencies are ready to be part of the assemblage in times of emergency.