A contagious living fluid: objectification and assemblage in the history of virology

Loon, J.V., 2002. A contagious living fluid: objectification and assemblage in the history of virology. Theory, Culture & Society, 19 (56), pp. 107-124. ISSN 0263-2764

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This article deals with the birth of `the virus' as an object of technoscientific analysis. The aim is to discuss the process of objectification of pathogen virulence in virological and medical discourses. Through a short excursion into the history of modern virology, it will be argued that far from being a matter of fact, pathogen virulence had to be `produced', for example in petri-dishes, test-kits and hyper-real signification-practices. The now commonly accepted objective status of `the virus' has been an accomplishment of a complex ensemble of actors. Indeed, this illustrates why objectification rather than objectivity has become the main focus of science and technology studies. The objectification of `the' virus was by no means a smooth process. It involved more than five decades of highly speculative and fragmented research projects before it became actualized as a separate discipline under the heading of virology. The specific objectification of viruses took place through an inter-disciplinary de-differentiation of research questions, methodologies, techniques and technologies. The main argument of this article is that viruses only became intelligible after the establishment of a virology-assemblage. Its inauguration in the early 1950s was radical and sudden because only then could the various substrands of virological technoscience affect each other through deliberate enrolment, and engender a universal intelligibility.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Theory, Culture & Society
Creators: Loon, J.V.
Publisher: Sage Publications
Place of Publication: London
Date: 2002
Volume: 19
Number: 56
ISSN: 0263-2764
Rights: Copyright 2002 by Sage Publications. All rights reserved. No portion of the contents may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the publisher
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: EPrints Services
Date Added: 09 Oct 2015 10:26
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2016 09:10
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/13038

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