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Seminar Presentation by HASS Faculty Search Candidate Lyle Fearnley

10 Mar 2015 10.15am to 11.15am SUTD, HASS Faculty Office (BLDG 1, LVL 4), Meeting room (1.402-36)

Field Pathologies: Influenza Research and Expert Authority in the Farmed Ecology of Poyang Lake, China

Brief Abstract
China's Poyang Lake is both a famous migratory bird refuge and a major poultry farming center. Following the emergence of avian influenza in 2004, scientists feared that contact between wild and domestic birds at the lake would make it the epicenter of a global flu pandemic. My paper follows a transnational scientific team as they study how this 'wild-domestic interface' might contribute to the emergence of flu viruses. As studies of animal ecology push influenza research beyond the germ theory's focus on the virus, they also situate research in field sites such as Poyang Lake. How does this shift from laboratory to field transform the practice of scientific knowledge production, and the authority of scientific expertise? Drawing on ethnographic research among flu scientists and poultry farmers, I show that doing science 'in the field' involves recognizing that natural environments are also human artefacts, made and remade by the perspectives and practices of the people who work in and on them.

Presenter Bio
Lyle Fearnley is an anthropologist of science and medicine, and currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in Humanities, Science and Society at Nanyang Technological University. He conducts ethnographic research on the changing cultural forms of science, rural life, and human-environment interactions in contemporary China, where agricultural modernization projects are giving rise to new environmental and health risks. Fearnley's book project — The Influenza Epicenter: Rural China and Animal Disease in an Age of Emerging Pandemics — explores the intersections of global health science and China's rural development, as poultry farms and farmers are made into objects of transnational pandemic flu research and control. He is the author of several journal articles, as well as co-editor of Science, Reason, Modernity (Fordham 2015), a pedagogical reader in the anthropology of science.