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"Designated Questions"


last update: 20160123

Designated Questions

My name is Yoko Yokota. I am a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences at Ritsumeikan University. I used to work for a public health laboratory in a local government in Japan. Among other things, I did research on viruses, including the influenza virus. I have been studying the history of public health in Japan, with a focus on laboratory work. Anthropology is not my field of study, but your lecture today gave me an opportunity to look at history through the eyes of anthropology.

My first question is about cultural differences in relation to sanitary crisis. In your final slide, you include religious authorities as one of the "actors implied in sanitary crisis concerning animal diseases. "It seems to me, however, that religious authorities would play a negligible role in a sanitary crisis in Japan. Thus, I believe that the reactions and actors related to a sanitary crisis might vary according to cultural differences. What is your opinion on this matter?

My second question is also connected to the final slide about actors implied in sanitary crisis. In the slide, you display the actors in a spectrum. "Representation of the animal as a living being" is at one end of the spectrum. "Representation of the animal as food" is at the other end. Looking at this spectrum, I thought that it was curious that you positioned health authorities in close relationship to representation of the animal as food. Bird flu is not a virus that is transmitted through food. Rather, bird flu is considered a sanitary crisis because it has the potential to jump from the animal world to the human world, by transmuting into a new and dangerous kind of human influenza in the near future. Indeed, health authorities believe that live birds are at the heart of the crisis, as the bird flu virus propagates in living birds.

Therefore, in your spectrum of actors, I think that health authorities should lie closer to representation of the animal as a living being. Perhaps I am looking at the situation from the perspective of a virologist. What do you think of my point?

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