University of Sussex
Forster,_William_Paul.pdf (3.58 MB)

Risk, modernity and the H5N1 virus in action in Indonesia A multi-sited study of the threats of avian and human pandemic influenza

Download (3.58 MB)
posted on 2023-06-08, 11:20 authored by William Paul Forster
This thesis examines the Influenza A/H5N1 virus in action through an ethnographic study focused on the entwined concepts of risk and modernity. The objective is to explain why the response to the virus has been challenged in Indonesia. Concerned with policy formulation, and everyday practice, the thesis argues that assemblages of historical, political, institutional and knowledge-power processes create multiple hybrid constructions of risk and modernity, which challenge technical responses based on epistemological positions and institutional arrangements that do not allow for such hybridity. The thesis is organised into four sections. The first section (chapters 1 – 3) introduces the virus and its terrain, outlines a constructivist position, and argues that conceptually risk and modernity have multiple, dynamic, power-laden forms. The second section (chapters 4 – 6) contrasts constructions of risk and modernity among the actors and networks responding to the emergence, spread and persistence of the H5N1 virus, with the constructions of affected people in Indonesia. The third section (chapters 7 – 9) investigates the multi-directional processes that occur when ‘global’ policies and practices encounter ‘local’ social and political settings, and vice versa, through three empirical case studies of the response to H5N1 in Indonesia between 2005 and 2010. The final section (chapter 10) provides a set of reflections and conclusions. Given the conceptual plurality of risk and modernity, and the multiple overlapping interacting hybrid constructions that have been empirically demonstrated in the case of H5N1, it is concluded that reductive, science-based, governmentally-orientated responses which treat nature as a matter of separate, fixed identity do not allow for such hybridity. The virus in action in Indonesia shows that any divide between nature and society is artificial and deceiving. Technical disease control responses need to incorporate understandings which accept the dynamics of culture, politics, and power


File Version

  • Published version



Department affiliated with

  • Institute of Development Studies Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • dphil


  • eng


University of Sussex

Full text available

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Theses)


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager