Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

States, Societies, and the Control of Contagion in China and India

February 11, 2019

Prerna Singh is the Mahatma Gandhi Associate Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs, and co-convener of the Brown-Harvard-MIT Joint Seminar in South Asian Politics. She is presenting her project, “States, Societies, and the Control of Contagion in China and India,” at The American Academy in Berlin on February 19, 2019.

Currently a Bosch Fellow in Public Policy for Spring 2019 at The American Academy in Berlin, Germany, Prerna Singh is developing a project titled “States, Societies, and the Control of Contagion in China and India.” Below is a summary of the project.

“Historically and today, infectious diseases have struck fear in the hearts of humans. This is because of their consequences: infectious diseases have been the single largest cause of human mortality and morbidity and inflicted enormous social, political and economic upheaval. But also because of their mode of transmission—passing and disseminating, often rapidly, via virtually invisible pathogens across even tightly policed borders. And though disease pathogens do not respect political boundaries, a population’s vulnerability to them has historically been determined by borders. So, why have polities with similar epidemiological, socioeconomic, and demographic conditions been characterized by strikingly different levels of containment? In this lecture, Prerna Singh draws on comparative historical analyses across China and India to argue—against dominant explanations about the development of, and access to health technologies—that the popular adoption of health technologies and the control of disease have hinged on whether new technologies are embedded in culturally specific motivational frames that are authoritatively communicated by a local institution.”

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