This article centers on cultures of anxiety and threat across the Pacific. Threat is an especially useful category for writing about a “rising” China, which is often imagined both as a site of localized environmental ruination that prefigures imminent global collapse and as a source of contamination that easily crosses national borders. Particularly in the global North, China has become a focal point for ecoanxieties that are shadowed by longer histories of perceived racial and cultural threat. This article confronts the idea of China as threat by investigating representational cultures across the Pacific. It focuses on a series of recent events mediated through textual and visual forms that unfold as a contemporary ethical drama between species—the human and the pig: the 2009 swine flu pandemic, a 2013 episode in which thousands of pig carcasses were found floating in Shanghai’s Huangpu River, and the 2013 purchase of Smithfield Foods, one of America’s biggest pork producers, by the Chinese conglomerate Shuanghui. To understand the movement between the representation of threat and the violent responses that flare up in its wake, one must pay attention not only to quantifiable risks but also to the cultural forms that characterize anxiety in the Anthropocene. Ultimately, what is at stake is not just geopolitical relations or public health but also the lives and deaths of the animals that are so often slaughtered to protect humans.
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Research Article| September 01 2020
Social Text (2020) 38 (3 (144)): 1–26.
Corey Byrnes; Transpacific Maladies. Social Text 1 September 2020; 38 (3 (144)): 1–26. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-8352223
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