SARS Discourse Analysis: Technoscientific Race-Nation-Gender Formations in Public Health Discourse

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This study's main objective is to analyze public health urgencies as socio-cultural phenomena produced in public health discourses with a focus on severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Five questions guide this study: What claims do different social worlds make to constitute public health discourses that produce biopolitical subjects in raced-nationed-gendered formations? What are the central concepts in each social world's SARS discourse? In what ways is the socio-cultural construction of risk central to the discursive construction of SARS? In what ways does each of the social worlds produce biopolitical subjects in raced-nationed-gendered formations? What are the underlying public health ethics in SARS discourse? This study analyzes data sources across three arenas--science, media, and public policy--and specifically four social worlds--government-science, non-government-science, mainstream news media, and government-public policy. Data sampling units consist of written text and visual images published in public health reports, scholarly papers, newspaper and magazine articles, Congressional Hearing transcripts and prepared witness testimonies. The conceptual and methodological framework draws from numerous areas of inquiry: critical race studies; feminist studies of science; public health ethics and social inequalities in public health; media framing; grounded theory; and discourse analysis.

Several discursive frames and configurations prominently emerge: (1) the War on SARS; (2) Oppositional Metaphors and Analogies; (3) Ir/Responsible Global Biopolitical Citizens; (4) SARS Risk Discourse; (5) Biopolitical Subjectivity in the "New Normal"; and (6) Face Masks and Metaphors of Un/Masking. In confluence, these frames yield a Trio of Human-Technology Figures. I consider this Trio an analytic construct in an APACrit-informed, feminist technoscience approach to public health discourse analysis. The overall SARS discourse, contoured by already existing narratives of race, nation and gender, rearticulates these narratives as a technoscientific race-nation-gender project. As an expression of public health ethics, SARS discourse manifests ethical tensions in relation to theorizations of justice.

This study contributes to knowledge in women's studies, critical race studies, feminist studies of science, and public health ethics, by demonstrating the richness of public health discourse as an object of inquiry and the necessity of a critical race, feminist technoscience analysis of ideological formations that have social justice implications.