The Geographies of Contagion *

Bill Albertini

[1] It has become a truism in cultural criticism to speak of "the post-9/11 era" in order to highlight a period of exploding state surveillance, paranoia over security and borders, and demonization of racial and national others. But to treat the post-2001 state of United States culture and politics as springing into being only or even primarily in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is to downplay the role of pre-existing anxiety about perceived effects of globalization—most notably fears about the movements of bodies across national borders. Those anxieties, arising within the context of technological and economic shifts, ecological changes, and increasing urbanization, have become visible across a range of cultural productions, but especially in popular fiction and non-fiction narratives of global epidemic illness that envision a world without borders, one in which bodies and spaces intermingle to deadly effect.

[2] Following the introduction of polio vaccines in the 1950s and 1960s, much of Western medicine expected contagious disease to become a thing of the past. But the 1968 influenza epidemic, the 1976 swine flu fiasco, and newly emerging diseases in the 1970s (these last perhaps not new but only newly recognized by Western medicine in a period of increasingly mobile citizenries) gave the lie to the expected end to infectious disease. With the start of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the rise of drug-resistant bacteria such as those responsible for the resurgence of tuberculosis, and increasing public and medical attention paid to illnesses such as Hanta, Ebola, Dengue fever, Smallpox, SARS, and avian and swine influenza, among others, contagious and infectious diseases have become increasingly important to medicine, public health, and national security, areas that have in turn become intimately intertwined in public-sphere discourse. [1] At their core, contagion texts obsess over what might best be described as the thoroughly abject spaces of illness, primarily the body that cannot maintain its own borders. As Julia Kristeva writes, the abject is "not lack of cleanliness or health ... but what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders... . The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite" (4). Contagion narratives generate the abject by radically expanding and contracting the visual representation of illness. Imagining threats to the United States from tropical spaces, these narratives form the basis for racist and paranoid imaginations of a purely contagious world, one that function as if illness were simultaneously scrutinized via microscope and satellite: differences between the cell, the body, the room, the region, the nation, the continent, and the globe all collapse, and it is through that imagination of a world in which scale no longer functions, in which borders and differences hold no meaning, that contagion generates what I call the global abject. That abject that always threatens to suffuse the globe thus threatens never to be contained; any narrative closure becomes merely provisional, and the implicit threat is always present.

[3] Such regimes of vision are expressly concerned with both diagnosing illness in bodies and with monitoring spaces imagined to harbor illness. In this article I draw from Margaret Humphreys' observation that Western science and journalism is deeply invested in fixing certain diseases to supposedly natural, and thus proper, locations. [2] Humphreys usefully connects the panics endemic to contagion narratives to the crossing of borders, to that moment "When the edge of safety cannot be defined." It is "Travelers," she notes, who have historically "created panics" (847). The recent news stories regarding the swine flu outbreak in the spring of 2009 only support her observation. [3] Recently, Ruth Mayer has argued that the discourse of the virus complicates previous Cold War inside/outside models of national security, and as such has become central to descriptions of contemporary terrorism. [4] While I draw upon Mayer's argument, she stops short of investigating the various technologies of vision that are central to epidemic narratives—technologies that, I argue, significantly shape popular understanding of bodies, illness, and medical security. [5] Medical anthropology and visual culture studies have usefully examined medicine's gaze, most often focusing on the role of certain technologies such as the microscope or the motion picture camera in the formation of medical knowledge. [6] Less often do these studies bring these technologies into conversation with each other, and more rarely with those technologies that map spaces and human movements more broadly. [7] In this essay, I trace the effects of erasing borders between and among technologies, objects, and bodies: the microscope and the cell it diagnoses; the camera, the doctor, and the ill body; and the geographic space organized by nation, cartographer, and satellite remote sensing. As these technologies of vision so central to medicine and national security collapse, that collapse generates not just the individual abject—e.g., the monstrous individual leaking body—but the threat of an abject globe.

[4] Contagion narratives make meaning by collapsing distinctions, especially those distinctions of scale that separate cell, body, geography. In doing so, they reflect anxieties that structure the post-9/11 world but that obtained well before that event. Such fears reveal the workings of much U.S. anxiety about the relation between two imagined spaces/positions that exist in uneasy relation to one another: on the one hand, the U.S. as a self-contained state, on the other, the wider globe, especially the global South. Within the space of such anxieties, increased travel and migration between the U.S. and its others in the global South, aided by technology and globalizing flows of capital and labor, come to signify infection; as such, the movement of one body between those poles becomes a threat to all bodies within the U.S. and the global North more generally. Such reasoning naturalizes the perpetual state of crisis so central to U.S. policy in the past decade, as well as its paired state of surveillance. Unpacking the obsession with myriad and interrelated crossing and collapsing of borders that appears in key contagion narratives can reveal the logic that treats national, racial, gender, and bodily borders as one, and can help reveal the logic of U.S. national responses to new contagion contexts such as the swine flu outbreaks of spring 2009.

Geography and Horror: The Hot Zone and Outbreak

[5] The second decade of the HIV/AIDS crisis, which was also the final decade of the millennium, saw a boom in global contagion narratives in news and entertainment media—in the form of speculative fiction, nonfiction journalism, documentary, and narrative film and television. Here, I use the term "contagion narrative" to refer to narratives that imagine or trace the outbreak of some supposedly new (often new to the global North) illness to be investigated by medical and epidemiological expertise and eventually contained; I specify "global contagion narrative" to direct attention to those texts that imagine epidemics that threaten all human life or threaten to radically alter the structure of human societies. [8] The work that launched a thousand texts was Richard Preston's best-seller The Hot Zone (1994), which itself is an expansion of his much-discussed New Yorker pieces from two years previous. Inspiring—or at the very least making viable and profitable—a host of other works, Preston's nonfiction thriller remains a touchstone for the imagination of global disease, solidifying tropes of contagion that remain popular in fiction, film, and science reporting. These tropes are now so ubiquitous as to go un-remarked as such, helping to create a wide-ranging contagion discourse that circulates as common-sense knowledge across multiple sites in contemporary U.S. culture.

[6] Preston's works, including a novel, another non-fiction medical thriller, and multiple articles for The New Yorker,have been notable for their influence not only on popular discourse about illness employed in medical and science journalism and in fictional representations of illness, but on public policy as well. [9] His novel Cobra Event famously inspired former President Bill Clinton to ask that the FBI investigate the possibility that the events depicted in the novel (a terrorist group unleashes an infectious disease in the United States) might come to pass (Nash 4). Writing of Preston's oeuvre in a review of the non-fiction thriller The Demon in the Freezer, Harold Varmus, former director of the National Institutes of Health, argues that Preston "has probably done more than any other writer to establish a nation-wide imperative to think about infectious agents as global threats and potential weapons" (12). Varmus' focus on "a nation-wide imperative" to think about "global threats" points to an important tendency in global contagion narratives: they generally speak of threats to the entire globe—what Richard Preston calls the threat of a "slate wiper" disease that might destroy all human life (27)—while focusing almost exclusively on the danger such a disease poses to the more wealthy global North. The people of poorer nations, who are far more likely to suffer as a result of epidemics, are thus treated as threats rather than victims. [10] Drawing on Preston's importance in establishing the discursive terrain of contemporary contagion narratives, in this essay I focus attention on Preston's most famous and widely read book, The Hot Zone, and the film that it unofficially inspired, Wolfgang Petersen's Outbreak (1995); as two of the most widely experienced global contagion narratives in the 1990s—a period that saw the explosion of these such texts and the concretizing of contagion rhetoric—they act as Ur-texts structuring the discourse of global contagion that remains influential today. [11] While Preston's work and Outbreak cannot be said to structure an entire discourse, they have perhaps best channeled the tendencies of that discourse while simultaneously playing a notable role in its formation and dissemination.

[7] Ebola, along with Marburg virus and, in a less direct but quite powerful manner, HIV/AIDS, are the primary interests of The Hot Zone and a startling number of other "doomsday virus" texts. [12] The Hot Zone's stories of disease mostly take place in the nations of central Africa, and its obsessions are with African spaces, although its ostensible reason for existing (for American readers, at least) is the outbreak of simian hemorrhagic fever (which the book insists might be human Ebola virus) among monkeys imported to a research facility in Reston, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC—as such the book exhibits the tendency mentioned above to situate Africa as a threat and the U.S. as the site threatened. Preston intercuts the story of "Ebola Reston" with stories of those who investigate and those who have suffered the effects of other Ebola and Marburg viruses. Wolfgang Petersen's 1995 film Outbreak can be read, with no stretch of the imagination, as a fictionalization of Preston's book. [13] Both texts locate the potential for global apocalypse in a disease-carrying monkey imported into the continental United States from central Africa. Petersen's film enacts the scenario that Preston's book describes as a potential future threat: an airborne version of an Ebola-like illness (in the film the fictional disease is named "Motaba") that kills all of its victims and spreads like the common cold or influenza (as opposed to Ebola and HIV/AIDS, each spread only through direct contact of bodily fluids). In the film, Motaba is transported to the United States from Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo [14]) in the body of a monkey who escapes with the help of an unscrupulous dockworker. Through the bodies of those who have come into contact with the monkey, an outbreak occurs in the seemingly all-white northern-California coastal enclave of Cedar Creek. The second half of the film focuses on the attempts to quarantine and contain the town, the search by heroic doctors for the monkey whose blood could provide a miracle cure, and the military's desire to destroy the town in order to save the nation from infection, and in doing so to protect a potential bioweapon.

[8] Contagion narratives in general, and these texts in particular, treat illness as an epistemological drama, a question of knowing and discovery. The investigation of disease is tightly yoked to three different modes of vision that arise repeatedly within contagion narratives: the microscopic investigation of the cell, the doctor's gaze at the ill body, and the cartographic gaze at the implicitly diseased region to be mapped. [15] While contagion narratives often trace the discovery and naming of a disease (such as the discovery and naming of the "Ebola Reston" strain in The Hot Zone, named after the location of the animal research facility in northern Virginia in which the disease was first noticed), the question of interest is not so much the whodunit as the howdunit: the chain of events that is imagined to lead back to a first infected patient. The discovery of this chain most often involves a tracing-back toward the geographically located source of an illness, the animal or the physical environment in which the virus is said to belong, its place of equilibrium. The originating moment, in viral narratives, is that moment at which an illness is thought to have "jumped species," to have moved from the animal kingdom—or from the wild more generally—into a human host who becomes ill. This penetration of the human by the non-human (the animal and the viral) is only the first in a complex series of interrelated penetrations that drive contagion texts. Contagion tales trace the process through which borders of all sorts become something else entirely, and during which the distinctions that underwrite selfhood, identity, citizenship, and nation cross, interpenetrate, and collapse. A geographic logic emerges, one that takes ordered, scientific, research-oriented, military spaces of Europe and the United States and contrasts them with central African spaces figured as jungle, wilderness, disease-ridden, given to sexual promiscuity and voracious appetites, where the divide between animal and human is unclear. Contagion breaks perceived distinctions between the animal and human, between geographic spaces and nation-states, across times, and between the geographic and the human. All dissolve—to say nothing of divisions drawn along lines of gender and race—and generate a potentially global abject.

[9] The first step in this abjection draws a definitive connection between exterior place (geography) and the interior self (biology) such that the physical body becomes conflated with—that is, infected by—the space in which it lives. In Preston's The Hot Zone, a researcher looking for evidence of disease in the cells of a dead monkey peers through an electron microscope. The researcher "could see forms and shapes that resembled rivers and streams and oxbow lakes, and he could see specks that might be towns, and he could see belts of forest. It was an aerial view of rain forest. The cell was a world down there, and somewhere in that jungle hid a virus" (135). Here, traces of illness function as a mystery to be solved by a process that maps the wilderness of interior biology and moors it to a specific place on the globe. Cells become natural outdoor spaces inseparable from the imagined home from which the host animal came: the cell here is a physical world, but specifically it is a jungle. This geographic metaphor does not so much map space as collapse layers of space: distinct levels of cell biology and of African geographic region become one. Under this rubric, the interior of the body has no choice but to reflect the exterior from which the body came. One's body, all the way down at the cellular level, belongs to its birthplace. Since home is carried in one's cells, you can take the body out of the jungle, but you cannot take the jungle out of the body.

[10] This idea of a disease being located in a specific geography is one that insists that such spaces must be preserved intact and unaltered, both for what they might provide to humans (e.g., the idea that useful medicines will be lost if rain forests are destroyed) and for what they might unleash in the form of disease, and Preston makes exactly this case in The Hot Zone. As Ramachandra Guha argues, narratives about the protection of jungle and rain forest tend to imagine those spaces as untouched by human hands, and thus fall into the colonialist pattern of imagining blank spaces on the map, forgetting that these areas did and do have native human populations, populations that may have dealt with such illnesses for quite some time. Contagion narratives picture blank African spaces not as a colonialist imposition but as an uncontested fact. The film Outbreak goes so far as to have a Zairian medical doctor verbalize the idea of empty African spaces; in addition, in the film he is merely repeating the beliefs of someone he describes as "a local juju man—a witch doctor," thus making an imperialist script ring true by placing it in the mouths of not one but two local speakers. The medical doctor explains that the juju man "believes that the gods were awoken from their sleep by the men cutting down the trees where no man should be, and the gods got angry. [Motaba] is a punishment." The medical doctor and the tribal doctor thus call for wilderness preservation in a manner very similar to arguments made by Preston in The Hot Zone; both Outbreak and Preston make these arguments so by imagining that the forests of Africa have never been (and should never be) entered by humans, even those native to the area. In Outbreak, two sets of sentient beings are shown in the forest: soldiers who die of an outbreak of the film's fictional disease in a flashback, and the monkeys that are envisioned as the viral hosts and, when transported across national borders, the source of infection into the United States. The film insists upon an image of the forest primeval, a place in which animals and virus can coexist, but into which humans cannot cross. [16] What purports to be an environmentalist message is primarily concerned with boundary-maintenance: the problem is not that trees are being cut down, but that they are being felled "where no man should be."

[11] When the border enclosing blank spaces is crossed, the result in contagion narratives is the collapse of the distinction between internal biology and external geography: the narrative shifts from humans entering forbidden places to forbidden places entering humans, resulting in a geography of the human interior. Preston's The Hot Zone begins with the story of just such a breach of the body when it tells the tale of "Charles Monet" (a pseudonym chosen by Preston), a Frenchman living and working in the western part of Kenya around 1980 who falls ill with, and dies from, the Marburg virus, a virus related to Ebola. Marburg, named after a town in Germany where an outbreak took place in 1967, is described by Preston as an African disease. Like the cell in the monkey described above, Marburg is said to belong to a certain section of east-central Africa despite the possibility (clear from its name) of infection elsewhere on the globe. [17] In his depiction of Charles Monet and his narration of Monet's illness in The Hot Zone, Preston is fascinated by the border crossing, both racial and geographic, that he finds in the idea of a Frenchman infected with what he describes as an African disease. [18] With Monet's story, the attempt to imagine the moment of disease penetration reverses the experience of disease as something out of the ordinary, turning instead to the trope of central Africa as a place teeming with illness, so suffused with virus that severe illness is not only common but seemingly necessary. Since the source or origin of Marburg is unknown, in the book every space and every being becomes viral: the "forested area" near Monet's place of work, the monkeys who ate from his hand, the sick bird for which he cared. "They say that one day near Christmas he carried a sick bird into his house, where it died, perhaps in his hands. The bird ... may have died of a Level 4 virus—no one knows" (4). Everything is a possible vessel of disease, and thus every touch—the act of feeding an animal or holding a bird—becomes an act of transmission. Causes multiply, including sexuality: "He had a number of women friends... . He gave money to his women friends, and they were happy to love him" (5). Although Preston is coy about details, he implicitly accuses Monet of bodily mis""> He is a traitor to sexual morality and to species; the story of Monet rhetorically echoes an early racist rumor that claimed that HIV had emerged in humans after someone broke a powerful sexual taboo and sexually penetrated a monkey infected with simian immunodeficiency virus.

[12] Notably, being too close to animals, the land and native inhabitants are treated as parallel causes of vulnerability—they make Monet a traitor to geography, too much of the place in which he now lives. [19] Monet, within the logic of Preston's text, has broken the cardinal rule of the European in Africa: he has succumbed to the lure of a place that Preston describes, in standard colonialist rhetoric, as both alluring and dangerous. Monet is no longer the European explorer who might return untouched from the foreign land, but one who has gone native. Too close to the land both at his home and while traveling, Monet visits Mount Elgon, where "colobus monkeys" and "harrier hawks" live (6), then journeys into Kitum Cave, where he and one of his "women friends" (15) "kick[ed] up puffs of dust" and walked past "crystals, white needles of minerals that ... were as sharp as hypodermic syringes" (8-9). Finally, Preston simply asks the question that has haunted the narrative to this point: "Did [Monet] run his hands over the stone trees and prick his finger on a crystal?" (9). The space of the cave becomes one in which "hypodermic syringes" litter the ground and walls, as if fears of medical waste on New Jersey beaches in the 1980s was being played out half a world away. This image of a fully abject space is reasserted in another vignette in The Hot Zone, that of Peter Cardinal, a young boy who dies of a Marburg infection in Kenya after visiting a cave on Mt. Elgon with his sister. Preston is convinced that the visit is to Kitum Cave, the place that in the book's imaginary serves as the repository of Marburg and Ebola; given the powerful trope of a place completely suffused with virus, it becomes impossible for Preston to fathom how Peter could fall ill while his sister, who accompanied him, remained healthy (98). Within the logic of infectious space, to travel to Mt. Elgon is to become infected. In a space of totalizing contagion, every animal is dangerous, any sexual attention is deadly, and every sharp rock is a contaminated syringe. Any cause will do, since everything is a potential cause: disease has suffused geography and geography has become abject.

[13] The imagined pricking of Monet's finger begins the obsessive focus on abjection, specifically abject bodies and fluids—but also, as above, abject spaces—that structure the representation of illness in The Hot Zone and most contagion narratives. As with the ingestion of food, in this story an "other" enters the body and begins a process whereby the distinction between subject and object is blurred. As Kristeva describes the abject, it is "Not me... . But not nothing, either. A 'something' that I do not recognize as a thing" (2). At the same time, the abject becomes part of the self: when spitting out food, "I expel myself, ... I abject myself" (3). Robyn Longhurst describes the abject as a problem of ingestion and expulsion: "In ingesting objects into itself or expelling objects from itself, the subject can never be distinct from the objects. These ingested/expelled objects are neither part of the body nor separate from it" (29). What we eat, we then expel as vomit, feces, urine, or blood, and we view that material as abject—and we do so because we recognize that it is not fully distinct from ourselves. The very existence of these in-between abject substances shows how fictional are our carefully constructed ideas of atomistic selfhood. Contagion narratives obsess over the in-between created by the permeable body in part because the body in contagion narrative does not ingest in the normal manner. In The Hot Zone, Monet has been forced to give up the conscious ordering of his body and control over his behaviors. Rather than Monet sitting down to dine, his body is dined upon and is penetrated by outside forces; his is a body that cannot keep its own boundaries secure. Following Leo Bersani, one sees that as a penetrable body, Monet is utterly unmanned in the sense that the Western model of heterosexual masculinity insists that the male remain impenetrable. Within this logic of the contagious abject, to become unmanned is to become inhuman.

[14] At the contagious moment—the pricking of Monet's thumb—the body begins the process of becoming disease, of transforming from the human into the viral, into the "Not me" by which Kristeva characterizes the abject. Preston describes the process in this manner:

When a hot virus multiplies in a host, it can saturate the body with virus particles, from the brain to the skin. The military experts then say that the virus has undergone "extreme amplification." ... During the process, the body is partly transformed into virus particles. In other words, the host is possessed by a life form that is attempting to convert the host into itself. The transformation is not entirely successful, however, and the end result is a great deal of liquefying flesh mixed with virus, a kind of biological accident. (13)

Illness and infection are here not necessarily questions of suffering, although Preston does pay significant attention to the suffering of the ill—suffering which, in turn, offers a grotesque spectacle to readers sitting a safe distance from infection. Monet's suffering (he has severe flu-like symptoms and is vomiting dark blood) signifies not only his illness but also his abject transformation from the realm of the human into that of the viral. Marburg here is a sentient force, and perhaps something more. Monet is "possessed by a life form that is attempting to convert" him—a turn of phrase with a suggestion of the demonic, perhaps of proselytizing, as if both a supernatural and ideological change were upon him. However, this conversion must also be read through the geographic logic of bodies so central to contagion narratives. If the body transformed by Marburg is imaginatively connected to African spaces, creating cells that are miniatures of "jungle" landscapes, then here Marburg begins to transform the Frenchman Monet into the African spaces in which he was living. Rather than the body that mirrors its landscape of origins all the way to the cellular level, the Marburg virus causes a "biological accident," unmooring Monet's cells from their original European location. In the process, the once-ordered, once-white European body not only transforms into a racially other self but is transmuted into disordered geography, a dual abjection of body and place.

Geography and Its Others

[15] Ebola (and Marburg) are, for Preston, African diseases; infection with such illnesses, no matter where it takes place, serves to connect the diseased body to a common trope of African spaces as jungle, as wilderness, as rain forest, treating African spaces as not only physically but also temporally other. In arguing that Ebola is not a new disease but an old one that has only recently begun to "crash" into large human populations, Preston couples what he sees as the primordial status of Ebola with an image of Africa as the equally primordial, natural home of the virus (33). In The Hot Zone, time in "the jungle" has ceased to move forward, keeping Ebola and, by extension, Zaire in a constant state of prehistory. Embracing this view of history as permanently frozen in the African jungle, Preston writes that "When a human being is fed upon and consumed," "especially in Africa," with a virus such as Ebola whose "origins go back, it seems, almost to the formation of the planet ... the event is telescoped against horizons of space and time, and takes on a feeling of immense antiquity" (94, emphasis added).

[16] In the act of collapsing spatial differences so that the cell and the region become equivalent, The Hot Zone fantasizes a geographically specific temporal collapse such that in this particular place, prehistory and present occur simultaneously. Such a collapse of time cannot be sustained. As borders dissolve, the risk to the white European is an internalized time-travel wherein the body is taken over and remade as something both physically and temporally removed from itself. It is no surprise, then, to find not only a temporal dissolution but also an evolutionary one that collapses any line between human and animal. To be infected is to become the primordial virus and in the process to become inhuman. Furthering Preston's idea of a "biological accident," the process of transformation from the human to the viral first turns the human into the animal. Preston discusses the effects of the progressing Marburg disease on the mind of the Frenchman Charles Monet: "The higher functions of consciousness are winking out first, leaving the deeper parts of the brain stem (the primitive rat brain, the lizard brain) still alive and functioning. It could be said that the who of Charles Monet had already died while the what of Charles Monet continues to live" (14). If, as we have seen above, disease makes the individual over as a microcosm of African wilderness, here we see just what such Africanization entails: regression, moving back in time "deeper" into a "primitive" state wherein the who of European agency is traded for the undefined what of Africa. [20]

[17] Such an abject yoking of the animal, the human, and the viral with similar implications appears early in Outbreak, the film that rode on The Hot Zone's coattails. [21] Investigating the fictional "Motaba" virus in a village in Zaire, Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) notices a local tribal doctor—described above as a "juju man" and "a witch doctor"—on a hillside, praying amidst the smoke from his campfire. As Daniels and his team leave the village, and as drums beat and martial horns swell, the helicopters transporting the U.S. medical-military team swoop over the trees at the edge of the village, and disturb a number of monkeys in the trees. Later, it will be revealed that the hosts for the disease (the animal carrying the virus but not suffering from its effects) are a number of monkeys living in the forest near the village. As the camera focuses on these monkeys, the scene dissolves into the smoke of the tribal doctor's campfire. As that smoke clears, the camera sits close to the tribal doctor's face, revealing that he wears white markings that match the markings on the faces of the capuchin monkeys. The tribal doctor is linked to the animals of the jungle, which in turn contain the virus that threatens the village and, later, the United States. Notably, that threat to the United States stands in, in a telling move, for a threat to the globe. A non-medical, but equally authoritative, technology of vision functions here. Without the truth-making authority of the microscope, the camera's eye functions as a visual technology linking the animal, viral, and human in a manner that echoes Preston's book, and all within African space.

[18] The mapping of Ebola onto geographic and temporal axes marks not only racial degeneration but gender slippage as well; in The Hot Zone, Ebola function as the overwhelming feminine, and it is specifically the threat of reproduction that blurs the categories of cell, body, and geography. The various strains of Ebola are termed "sisters," and Ebola, especially when examined through the technology of the electron microscope, becomes a site of sexual attraction and revulsion that mirrors Kristeva's abject. Preston narrates the response of a male researcher utilizing a microscope-enhanced gaze, seeing in Ebola something equally alluring and deadly: "white cobras entangled among themselves, like the hair of Medusa. They were the face of Nature herself, the obscene goddess revealed naked. This thing was breathtakingly beautiful... . He was lost in wonder and admiration, even though he knew that he was the prey" (137). Along similar lines, Marburg is described as "a sophisticated organism that knew what it wanted. It could multiply in many different kinds of meat. It was an invasive life form, devastating and promiscuous. It showed a kind of obscenity you see only in nature, an obscenity so extreme that it dissolves imperceptibly into beauty" (95). [22] In the film Outbreak, a more complex rhetoric of attraction obtains. Major Salt (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) introduces the film's fictional virus in masculine form, as "Mr. Motaba," and Daniels (Hoffman) says of it "You have to love its simplicity." When his research partner Casey (Kevin Spacey) responds sarcastically, "So what do you want to do, take it to dinner?" Daniels disavows even a metaphoric same-sex attraction: "No... . Kill it." The feminine-gendered "obscenity of beauty" from The Hot Zone becomes something admirable enough to "love" in Outbreak, which demands a violent repulsion from implied homoeroticism.

[19] The perceived sexual voraciousness of illness is inextricably linked to revulsion from reproduction; it is the virus "attempting to convert the host into itself." Such a process is described not in terms familiar to human reproduction, but as a "sort of biological accident." The researcher seeing "the obscene goddess" also sees cells that "looked swollen and fat. Because they were pregnant and jammed with bricks of virus" and "were getting ready to burst" (138). This nightmare vision of pregnancy is linked to a tendency with a long history in the West, the habit of describing female bodies in terms of grotesqueness or monstrosity, as Rosemarie Garland Thomson has explained (19-20). However, The Hot Zone's vision of the female body and pregnancy takes this abstract concept of the monstrous and makes it distinctly physical. In viral production described as pregnancy, the new viral life that emerges grows in nothing more than "meat," in which the disease continues to be imagined as "promiscuous" and thus "devastating." In Outbreak, the description of viral reproduction is not dissimilar, and the camera's eye links it even more closely to the view through the microscope as one of the scientist heroes narrates: "One [virus particle] goes in, millions come out. Every cell is dead." During the narration, the viewer watches a series of electron-microscope images of cells infected by Outbreak's fictional virus. First, the images stay at the same resolution and depict the damage done to cells over time; later, the microscopic images zoom closer to show individual virus particles "searching for their next victim until there's nothing left to kill." Those images underwrite the characterization of reproduction as an overabundance of fecundity: "one" virus particle is said to produce "millions" of "offspring." Similarly, in The Hot Zone, the Ebola infection process becomes a series of burstings, moments when boundaries of not just the cell but of the body dissolve. First, cells burst with virus, then internal organs "liquefy," and eventually the line between inside and outside the body disappears as the body coughs, vomits, and bleeds, the process that Preston refers to as "crashing" (28).

[20] That combination of extreme reproduction and voraciousness—the virus that reproduces "millions" but does so "until there's nothing left to kill"—enacts what Barbara Creed describes as the "archaic mother" who produces life but who the child cannot escape, creating an abject "monstrous-feminine" that demands expulsion in order that patriarchal power be reasserted (50, 53). The exposure of the abject on screen threatens the viewer's sense of self, marked especially by moments of body horror when a viewer must break contact with the screen and look away. Creed notes that the "process of reconstitution of the self is reaffirmed by the conventional ending of the horror narrative in which the monster is usually 'named' and destroyed" (65). This monstrous viral pregnancy is the mirror image of, and the necessary complement to, the abjection of the penetrable body discussed above: the body that can be penetrated cannot be trusted to contain itself—it will reproduce uncontrolled.

The Logic of the Contagious Globe

[21] The image of the ill body as a leaking, disordered one that spills over its own borders in uncontrolled pregnancy connects to the trope that conflates cell and geography. The cell that is infected with a dangerous geography spills from the penetrable and leaking body and thus infects geographic space. But beyond the cell that bursts its own boundaries, and similarly linked to the fear of abject and leaking geographic spaces, is the body that leaks abject substances. In the middle of Outbreak, as the film traces the disease's invasion of the United States, the camera allows the viewer to follow the virus as if riding along with it: a male movie-theater patron coughs and the camera travels lightly through the air along with the wet droplets as they float over the crowd, eventually drifting into the mouth of a laughing woman. A male body has expelled, or given birth to, what it could not contain, and a female body is penetrated by that abject expulsion. [23] This moment combines traditional sexual penetration and the gender disruption of male pregnancy; at the same time it erases borders of species, race, and geography—and it is these multiple crossings that together constitute its particular form of abjection. The bursting male body that cannot contain its cells serves as a nodal point for the invasion of a white enclave by an illness attached explicitly to African spaces: by way of the monkey in whose body the disease originally arrived within the U.S. and thus to the "Motaba River Valley" for which the fictional disease is named. The camera continues to follow the path of transmission, and the viewer is invited into a pleasured-but-repelled enjoyment of anonymous disease transmission in which the public sphere (the theater) is the location for infection. The viewer is fascinated and repelled by the abject, thrilled by the encounter with defilement that narrative conventions imply will be expelled by the film's end. In acting as a mobile microscope and following aerosol droplets through the air, the camera tracks the movement of bodily fluids usually hidden, manufacturing abjection by demonstrating the porosity of bodies, the contact-without-contact that creates first a spatial abject (the air of the movie theater itself becomes abject, rather than simply the body of its patron) and following the spread of infection, the geographic and global abject.

[22] Similar to the movie-theater scene in Outbreak, in The Hot Zone, the abject fluid or substance that has been birthed by or spilled from the body is the focus of lavish attention. One example is Charles Monet's illness; special attention is paid to the leaking of his body into public space, as when Monet is sick while on an airplane en route to Nairobi, Kenya, in search of medical attention:

The airsickness bag fills up the brim with a substance known as vomito negro, or the black vomit. The black vomit is not really black; it is a speckled liquid of two colors, black and red, a stew of tarry granules mixed with fresh red arterial blood. It is hemorrhage, and it smells like a slaughterhouse. The black vomit is loaded with virus. It is highly infective, lethally hot. . . . The smell of vomito negro fills the passenger cabin... . The bag is bulging and softening, threatening to leak, and he hands it to a flight attendant. (13)

In the most graphic terms, the body overwhelms its boundaries. As Heather Schell has noted, Preston displays an obsession with food imagery (120), an obsession not unrelated to the abject body that he places on display. Monet vomits up a "stew" that "smells like a slaughterhouse." The airsickness bag is like his body, "bulging and softening, threatening to leak." Monet's body reflects the nightmare vision of pregnancy, marking him as unable to control both racial and sexual boundaries. In addition, the number of characters involved has multiplied. If the virus attempts to take over the self, then that "black vomit ... loaded with virus" is both Monet's body and not his body. It is the thing Monet is becoming, and the connection it draws between and among cell, body, geography, and now international travel alters the effects of this abject. This reproductively malignant abject is an actor unto itself, one that threatens not only selfhood—one's individual fiction of wholeness—but also collapses the distinction between geographic space and the space of the body. Visualizing the cell as geography and geography as suffused with infection, global contagion narratives map not just an undone self, but a world on the verge of collapse.

The Global Abject

[23] In these depictions of free-floating contagion in public space we find the true horror of the doomsday virus narrative: bodies (especially male bodies) that are totally porous, that are both penetrable and leaky. Within such public spaces, if one body's boundaries dissolve, every other body is not only at risk but is destined to collapse as well. The possibility of infection becomes the necessity of infection because space itself (as with Monet's trip to Kitum Cave in The Hot Zone) becomes infectious. This idea of the perceived necessity of infection seems especially powerful when infection crosses not just physical space but national borders—including the borders of nationalized bodies—as in the case of Monet's air travel during which his body begins to break down. As Preston stresses, "All the earth's cities are connected by a web of airline routes. The web is a network... . Charles Monet and the life form inside him had entered the net" (11-12, emphasis added). As Monet moves, the virus seeks to replace him with itself; the virus becomes a subject that moves as well. A further scene of total permeability comes near the end of the Charles Monet story, as Monet waits in the emergency room, one that is "jammed with bleary-eyed people, Africans and Europeans sitting shoulder to shoulder" (16). In this enclosed space where differently nationalized and differently raced bodies intermingle, Monet

goes into the last phase. The human virus bomb explodes... . He leans over, head on his knees, and brings up an incredible quantity of blood from his stomach and spills it onto the floor with a gasping groan... . Pools of blood spread out around him, enlarging rapidly. Having destroyed its host, the agent [Marburg] is now coming out of every orifice, and is "trying" to find a new host. (16-17)

The body is permeable and has burst its own container, and the implied result involves the permeability of every other body in that crowded space, and, by extension, in the space of the city in which this scene occurs. Contagion thus draws attention to, and demands the visual surveillance of, the relatively speedy migration between exploding urban centers characteristic of this historical moment.

[24] The movie theater scene in Outbreak plays out a similar scenario of public sphere transmission, and it is later reinforced by a scene in the film in which military advisers brief the U.S. President, making a case for destroying the town in which Motaba is now endemic. A map of the continental United States, schematic but reflecting the idea of satellite remote sensing that might track illness, shows infections marked in red; as time moves forward, the red blots grow to demonstrate infection that will blanket the U.S. within a few days. [24] Just as the blood spilling from Monet threatened to break down all other bodies in his vicinity, so here all divisions are imagined to be in the process of complete collapse. Each body of the citizenry has ceased to act as a container, and the larger political container of the nation will soon be suffused with illness. In the same way that, for Preston, Ebola turns central Africa into a space of pure illness, in Outbreak that African illness has entered the space of the United States, threatening to engulf it, to remake its cells, its citizens, and its geography. The blood-red map is the necessary complement to the imagined blank African spaces: both are maps in which no safe space can be represented, in which the body itself ceases to provide safety or to maintain individual selfhood, just as the cell had ceased to maintain its boundaries. [25] The equation of cell and geography haunts each dissolving body: the abjection of one body necessarily leads to the abjection of all because abject biology becomes abject geography becomes the threat of an abject globe.

[25] To be African, in global contagion narratives, is to be enmeshed in a geography of illness; to be such is to be viral and animal at the same time, and to embody a threat to the North. But within these texts the North is transformed into the entire globe, in the sense that a threat to the North is treated as a global threat, as in Harold Varmus' sense that Preston's work established "a nation-wide imperative" to think about "global threats" in the form of contagious disease. Such logic is circular but powerful: the globe, pictured as all that is outside of the North, threatens the United States, but the United States, when threatened, stands in for the entire globe. In the same scene from Outbreak, when the military representative makes the case for destroying the town in which Motaba is endemic, he asks advisers to the U.S. President to "be compassionate, but be compassionate globally." However, the map he uses to trace the expected spread of infection is a map of only the continental United States, with the spread of infection mapped as a red color spreading over the lower forty-eight. Thus the iconic map representing the U.S. comes to stand in for the entire human race, even as the viewer's attention, and that of the advisers in the film, is kept focused directly on U.S. national borders. The map visually contains disease even as the adviser encourages a "global" vision. Notably, a similar thinking has underwritten the still ongoing war on terror: a threat to the United States is treated as a threat to global security.

[26] The imagination of border-crossing disease so important to The Hot Zone and Outbreak thus comes to serve as a hallmark of anxieties over globalization in general in the post-Cold War period. [26] Because of the "hot virus from the rain forest" that could get to "every city on earth," the movement of one becomes the source of danger for all (Preston, The Hot Zone 11-12). In early 2001, The New York Times magazine devoted a special issue to the globalization of public health concerns and the search for solutions to those problems. The issue was entitled "The Cure Hunters," a title that signified on related ideas of illness as both mystery and safari—a cure is to be discovered, a disease to be hunted (The New York Times, 6 May 2001). The issue included seven "case studies" on various health issues around the globe, attaching each public health question to a locale. However, the opening article that frames the issue's concerns, Natalie Angier's "Case Study: Globalization; Location: Everywhere; Together, in Sickness and in Health," lays claim to no specific location. Presenting "globalization" as itself a public health problem, but in particular one for the global North, Angier offers the following description of life (and death) in the "global village" that is tellingly a narrative of global contagion:

Today, diseases as common as the cold and as rare as Ebola are circling the globe with near telephonic speed, making long distance connections and intercontinental infections almost as if by satellite. You needn't even bother to reach out and touch someone. If you live ... you will be reached and touched... . Nowadays, a mosquito infested with the malaria parasite can be buzzing in Ghana at dawn and dining on an airport employee in Boston by cocktail hour. (67-68)

Angier's mini-narrative embodies the contemporary vocabulary of contagion, a set of tropes made famous in The Hot Zone but remaining as popular as ever, with its set of interrelated obsessions: travel, border crossing, invisibility (one would be hard-pressed to notice a mosquito boarding a plane, and harder-pressed to keep it off), connections between the "developed" and "developing" worlds (with all of the racial and economic fears that are often attached to questions of development), and schemes of vision that move from the very tiny to the transcontinental. Notably, Angier's story carries the medical label "case study" but locates itself "everywhere"—in a world literally without borders, where each space intrudes upon each other with deadly effects. But her narrative is notably less concerned with illness everywhere than with two key penetrative moments: the movement from Ghana to Boston embodied in the unnoticed carrier (the mosquito) that, in the second moment of penetration, breaks the border of the body in order to "din[e] on an airport employee" in vampiric style. The first instance crosses continental and national borders (importantly from the global South to the global North), the second crosses both skin-blood and animal-human barriers. These tropes are familiar from the AIDS epidemic: a fear of invisible carriers and a desire to control populations, as was evidenced in William Buckley's famous desire to forcibly tattoo HIV-positive individuals.

[27] Popular Ebola narratives of the middle 1990s can be seen as largely responding to narratives of HIV/AIDS, reproducing anxiety over HIV in the form of anxiety over what are called "emerging" illnesses. These and other contagion narratives help to organize a language that structures anxieties over the crossing or blurring of borders, anxieties that preceded 9/11 but have become more pronounced in the U.S. since late 2001. Imagining threats to the United States from tropical spaces, contagion narratives describe a world structured by the global abject in which the hidden or microscopic (the virus), the body, and geography interpenetrate. As early twentieth-century concerns over disease and white race purity shaped immigration debates at that moment, and as concerns over infiltration by communist outsiders shaped discussions of U.S. nationalism during the heights of the Cold War, the lenses through which contagion has been viewed since the 1990s, lenses structured by but by no means limited to formative texts such as The Hot Zone and Outbreak, have served to set certain discursive frames around the contemporary linking of health to national security. The perception of illness as border-crossing invasion structures the national imaginary of not just African spaces but the global South generally: that model of illness, and its coupled model of nationalism, has been revealed repeatedly in the past few years starting with the SARS outbreak of 2003, followed by concern over the H5N1 avian flu virus and, most recently, the swine flu epidemic that began in the spring of 2009 (still ongoing at the time of this writing). [27] Similar tropes are increasingly familiar from the discourse surrounding terrorism: the danger of easy travel, the need to create and enforce borders, the quarantining of populations. In responses to illness and to terrorism, official language conflates public safety and police action, especially the policing of borders.

* * * *

[28] Barbara Creed argues that horror film is "a modern defilement rite" that "brings about a confrontation with the abject (the corpse, bodily wastes, the monstrous-feminine) in order, finally, to eject the abject and re-draw the boundaries between human and non-human" (53). Contagion narratives enact exactly that defilement, but when contagion is imagined to be global, or potentially global, then the possibility of ejecting the abject becomes increasingly less convincing: the entire map fills with infected blood, with abject fluid. The broken and leaking body is a central figure in a much larger problematic of the viral narrative: that of a world marked significantly, even centrally, by borderlessness, a threat arising out of the coupling of virus and geography. The virus that seeks "to convert the host into itself" is an almost unnoticed force attempting a hostile takeover that is both embodied and spatial, one that collapses not only boundaries within the self and boundaries of the body's surface, but any distinctions between cell, body, and geography. In The Hot Zone, such a conversion remakes the ordered, European body of the Frenchman Monet and turns it into the colonialist nightmare, the disorder of the jungle that hides in cells. If the virus penetrates the body, remakes the self as pure abject, and then destroys all remaining boundaries in order to leak out into the world, "'trying' to find a new host," a magnification of those events can, and in these narratives by necessity will, occur on the global stage. Such fears underwrite a desire to reinscribe national borders in order to expel the contagious abject, but the multiplicity of global connections magnifies that abjection such that it can never be satisfactorily contained.

[29] The conflation of cell, body, and geography functions through three visual regimes—the microscope, the eye and the geographic map—that interpenetrate, giving rise to an abjection not located in a single body but locatable, as Natalie Angier's title states, "everywhere." In these narratives the "everywhere" is most often found in the global South, a source of possibilities and anxieties both economic and medical. The beginning of ABC's 2006 TV movie Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America helps to demonstrate how multiple visual regimes function. [28] The film's opening credits appear over images of geese in flight alternating with radar images. Next, textual tags appear around the geese, as if showing computer-assisted tracking of tagged animals or dangerous aircraft. This is followed by maps of southeast Asia with circles radiating out from key locations (such as Taiwan), followed by more map images focused on the global South, with multiplying white spots indicating incidents of disease. The credits conclude over images of luggage X-rays, thus connecting animal migration, human travel, and surveillance of spaces in the global South in a manner that blends zoological, medical, and national securities. Recent fears related to swine flu—how dangerous is air travel to Mexico? is pork dangerous to eat?—reflect related tropes. The film's credits are followed by the infection of a white Virginia businessman and married father of two (not the film's first infection, but the first about which it displays much interest) who has been in China to oversee the importing of Chinese-produced goods to the U.S. The camera zooms from a shot of him to the virus particles that he leaves on a cocktail napkin, before engaging in contact-tracing that branches out from him to a host of other travelers. Here, as in so much other contagion discourse, the visual imagination of the global abject across disparate but interconnected levels of vision calls forth the combination of health and national security—the monitoring of borders, the tracking of suspect populations, the connection of illness and migration—that mark our contemporary moment. That global abject demands monitoring and containment, but importantly and unlike previous popular culture uses of the abject, the abject generated by global contagion narratives always threatens to be uncontainable.

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* I wish to thank Bowling Green State University's Institute for the Study of Culture and Society; its fellowship semester offered me the time and support to complete this article. In addition, a debt of gratitude is owed to colleagues whose valuable insight and cogent critiques offered me guidance, including but not limited to Derek Nystrom, Leanne Gilbertson, Allie Terry, Amy Robinson, Eric Lott, Jennifer Wicke, Marlon Ross, and others at the University of Virginia and Bowling Green State University.

[1] Building on the work of Michael Rogin, Kuberski has pointed out that "'Security' as term and value in American political life is usually associated with the Cold War, but its origins go back to the North American Indian wars, the Salem witch trials, the lynchings of Jim Crow America, and anti-union and anti-'foreign' hysteria" (138). Anti-foreign hysteria has long functioned through medical discourse, as Howard Markel points out. In this essay, I examine the specific forms of only some of the most recent incarnations of anxieties over illness and national borders.

[2] Important social and cultural histories of epidemics and contagion have been written by Tomes, Otis, and Leavitt, among others. I take such work as a stepping-off place for my own investigation of these Ur-texts of global contagion.

[3] In addition, critics have usefully examined a range of contagion narratives. Notably, in her recent book Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative, Wald has demonstrated the centrality of epidemics to ideas of national belonging. In addition, Fernandes and Schell have each analyzed the political circulation of epidemic narratives. Lynch has brought attention to the colonial dimensions of contemporary contagion writing—the way that texts on emerging viruses tend to mirror colonial panics about contact between the U.S. and "African or other non-Western places," thereby underwriting the call for neo-colonialist interventions in developing nations (234-5).

[4] Mayer importantly notes that even texts that do not "enact virus threats exclusively or primarily in terms of a military or terrorist project" still "'culturalize' the viral and thus turn it into an integral element of the global order after the Cold War." This is an order "that inform[s] recent popular science writing and military-strategical measures" and in turn leads to a logic that argues that "the only way to keep up with the viral agents at large is to establish ever more subtle and pervasive mechanisms of intervention" (15-16). Mayer, however, concludes close to this note; my work here seeks to explain the role and importance of these "subtle and pervasive mechanisms," specifically those forms of surveillance that both help to generate and attempt to control abjection.

[5] Recently Ostherr has explored the relation between film and contagion in her excellent Cinematic Prophylaxis: Globalization and Contagion in the Discourse of World Health. Ostherr's work is squarely within film studies, and as such she recognizes the varying uses to which the film camera is placed—as well as the central importance of digital special effects to the generation of knowledge about contagious disease within both educational and narrative film. Complementing Ostherr's work in film studies, here I draw attention to the centrality of multiply constituted modes of vision to a range of discourses about contagious disease, from narrative film to nonfiction medical writing.

[6] For more on this subject see Cartwright and Dijck.

[7] As Parks has argued, technologies such as the satellite are largely under-examined in cultural theory and studies, although we are accustomed to seeing satellite-transmitted and satellite-created images on television, and perhaps even used to treating that gaze as a form of the complete mapping and organizing of objects such that nothing is unseen or unforeseen, as did Jean Baudrillard in Simulations (Parks 5-7). Baudrillard's understanding of satellite remote imaging grows out of the Cold War era of nuclear terror imagined as potential war between superpowers (ibid. 6). However, for fears that are written in bodies, and especially in the leaky porosity of bodies, the satellite gaze does not suffice.

[8] Wald uses the phrase "outbreak narrative" to discuss this genre in her recent book Contagious. We investigate some of the same texts, although her work does not focus on technologies of vision, as does mine. See also her "Imagined Immunities" for more on these subjects. She further notes that while contagion texts often imagine outbreaks that have the potential to radically alter the shape of human societies, the responses proposed within both fiction and nonfiction tend to hinge upon medical models of curing disease by combating illness, and such a medical model almost never imagines any radical change to access to wealth and health care in order to prevent or mitigate the effects of future epidemics. See especially the epilogue of her Contagious.

[9] In this article, all parenthetical references to Preston's writing are references to The Hot Zone (1994).

[10] For more on the connection of poverty and illness, see Farmer.

[11] A list of only some of the myriad texts and media productions in this genre would include fiction such as William T. Close's Ebola: A Documentary Novel (1995) and Robin Cook's Contagion (1995), nonfiction such as Laurie Garret's encyclopedic The Coming Plague (1994), Frank Ryan's Virus X (1997), Rodney Barker's And the Waters Turned to Blood (1997), Leonard Horowitz's Emerging Viruses: AIDS and Ebola (1996), Joseph McCormick, Susan Fisher-Hoch, and Leslie Alan Horvitz's Level 4: Virus Hunters of the C.D.C. (1996), C. J. Peters' Virus Hunter: Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the World (1997), Edward Regis's Virus Ground Zero: Stalking Killer Viruses with the Center for Disease Control (1996), Richard Rhodes's Deadly Feasts (1997), Gina Kolata's Flu (1999), and Pamela Nagami's Maneater (2001). These books cover a panoply of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Hanta, Lassa, Influenza, Marburg, Dengue Fever, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or Mad Cow disease). In addition, there were films such as Virus (1999) and television movies including Pandora's Clock (1996), Flying Virus (2001), and Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America (ABC, 2006), as well as the mini-series Pandemic (Hallmark, 2006). Television and print media continue to return, time and again, to infectious disease as a source of news: as regular stories in the science section of the Tuesday New York Times, for a multi-part series on disease produced by ABC News in 2000, for the yearly medicine special issue of The New York Times Magazine, for the spring 2002 season finale and the fall 2002 season premiere of E.R. (in which monkeypox leads to a quarantine of the hospital), as a general trend on NBC's Medical Investigation (2004-2005), as a popular story in television and print news about "superbugs" in hospitals and school in October of 2007, and as a regular disease to be combated on the Fox hospital series House M.D. (2004-). The threat of total contagion remains a site of intense interest: popular films such as 28 Days Later... (2002) and its sequel 28 Weeks Later (2007), as well as the Resident Evil film franchise and the video game franchise that spawned that film series, take as their starting points engineered illnesses that remake their victims into zombies. The recent remake of I Am Legend (2007) continues the trend; similarly, the fall 2007 story arc on NBC's series Heroes evokes fears of biological weapons in its focus on a natural virus that mutates as a result of questionable research practices. Further, increased public attention has been paid to ecological disaster, along with its fraternal twin globalization, and hallmarks of these fears serve to structure epidemic narratives—the breaking down of traditional ways of life, increasing and increasingly fast global travel, destruction of rain forests, the extinction of species, movement of populations, the breakdown of the importance of national borders and national identity.

[12] Ebola and Marburg are both filoviruses that cause quite severe symptoms ranging from flu-like symptoms to intense internal hemorrhaging, and by focusing on their representation I do not mean to downplay the suffering each can cause. Ebola infection is immensely serious, with some strains having a mortality rate as high as 90% despite hospital care; it affects patients quite quickly and currently has no known cure, and in the last ten years it has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of people. However, as Fernandes points out, deaths from Ebola and similar illnesses lag far behind those from HIV, Malaria, and other illnesses that receive far less popular press attention. Apocalyptic contagion texts rose to popularity not only through the interest generated by diseases such as Ebola, but because they were published when the AIDS crisis was endemic in the global North and was starting to be seen by more and more journalists and activists as a disease to be confronted globally rather than nationally. Specifically, Africa served as the face of "global" AIDS in U.S. media until quite recently, when attention in the United States began to be paid to parts of India and East Asia with high rates of HIV/AIDS. Such attention to the spread of HIV/AIDS in some African nations at times hearkened back to early rumors from the crisis that tried to pin the cause for the disease on developing nations—obsessed with locating the "cause" of AIDS in importation from abroad. Activists interested in the lack of funding being funneled to hard-hit African nations accuse those promoting such "explanations" of AIDS of dodging pressing issues of care, prevention, and access to costly treatment. In effect, the idea of "African AIDS," in the phrase that Patton made famous, imagines a continent (or at the very least a subcontinent) as a single risk group, dangerous and in need of monitoring. Popular Ebola narratives are largely responding to other narratives of HIV/AIDS, and working within such racist imaginations of African spaces. See Semmler (especially 155-157) for more on the links between HIV/AIDS and Ebola narratives; see Rich for more on the relation of HIV/AIDS to popular narrative.

[13] When Preston's article appeared in the New Yorker, Twentieth Century Fox immediately optioned it for a film (to star Jodie Foster and Robert Redford), but the script was bogged down in debates. In the meantime, Warner Brothers produced its own film, clearly based on the apocalyptic fears in The Hot Zone; this was Petersen's Outbreak. Giving no direct credit to Preston, the film clearly owes its existence to the excitement that the New Yorker article and ensuing book helped to produce. See Weinraub for details on the proposed Hot Zone film.

[14] The Republic of Zaire changed its name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997, but for the purposes of this article I utilize the nation's name at the times of the events depicted and of the book's publication.

[15] As Wald notes in "Imagined Immunities," "Epidemiological maps help the epidemiologists solve the puzzle of the disease" (197). Wald argues that such maps trace "the imagined community of the global village, charting diseases as they cross national borders," and in turn "reinforc[e] the boundaries" of nations and of national belonging (208). I take her arguments about the importance of contagion to imagined community as essential to my own work here meant to trace the bio-graphic abjection that underwrites the pleasure and fear generated by contagion texts.

[16] In "Ebola Goes Pop," Semmler argues in favor of the environmentalist message present in contagion texts such as The Hot Zone, and Preston does have environmental protection in mind. I point here, via Ramachandra Guha, to blank-spaces-on-the-map logic inherent in this particular way of speaking environmentalism.

[17] I do not dispute the notion that a disease might arise under certain environmental conditions, whether "natural," "human-made," or the interaction between the two. The ecocritical turn in literary and cultural studies has, however, trained us to think more critically about the distinction between the categories of natural and cultural. For more on this subject, see Cronon. For work on the construction of the "natural," see Haraway, Hacking, and Smith.

[18] In The Hot Zone, Monet's race is never stated, but descriptions of him, and specifically descriptions of him as French, implicitly equate French citizenship with whiteness.

[19] In Contagious, Wald notes how news reports about the emergence of SARS in 2003 were eager to blame a perceived lack of modernity in China for the illness, that lack measurable by the image of farm animals and humans living too close to each other (5-8).

[20] Reviewers rarely noted the racist implications of The Hot Zone's fascination with African spaces, perhaps because these modes of imagining "other" geographies as inherently ill are so familiar as to be invisible in mainstream U.S. film reviewing.

[21] While not a critical success, Outbreak earned a respectable $13.4 million in its opening weekend and grossed a reported $67.8 million in the United States and $187.8 million worldwide, on a $50 million budget. It is also reported to have earned over $31 million as a rental video in the United States. (Source: Internet Movie Database.)

[22] Here, even "nature" personified has become something dangerous—it is a force uncontrolled by authority, dangerous and attractive, transfixing its "prey" only in order to attack. This image continues the personification of disease that is quite common in medical journalism. That personification might not be objectionable as a rule (it might well offer patients a way of understanding their illness), but the specific mode here is deeply problematic: Ebola as femme fatale offers nothing to an understanding of the disease, but reveals much about how this disease is mobilized within the realm of horror.

[23] Multiple reviews of this film comment on this specific scene as one of the more effectively chilling moments in the movie.

[24] Parks usefully examines the role of remote sensing (see especially 79-154).

[25] This pattern is quite common in apocalyptic disease stories. A similar world of collapsed borders is described in Gina Kolata's Flu, where Kolata imagines what might happen if an influenza virus identical to the 1918 virus returns to kill millions again. In Deadly Feasts, Richard Rhodes describes a world in which indestructible prions (the disease-causing proteins connected to Creutzfeldt-Jakob and BSE, or mad cow disease) exist in every part of the food chain, from cattle to chickens to fertilizer for vegetables eaten by the strictest vegetarians. From those sites prions move into the human population, causing slow and terrible deaths. In each of these stories, contagion breaks all borders, beginning with that of the body.

[26] In comparison, many Cold War virus tales echoed fears of communist takeover—there, the virus would infiltrate and remake the infected person as a type of infecting automaton. See Wald, especially 157-212.

[27] Two examples from just a few weeks apart in 2006 offer a sample of this discourse that continues to wed immigration and invasive illness: see Kirkpatrick and Altman. Stories of swine flu in spring 2009, as well as state responses to them, focused on travel, especially plane travel, across national borders. For a few examples, see Brody, Rothman, Brothers, and McNeil, Jr.

[28] For a longer investigation of this television movie and the discourse around avian influenza, see my "Contagion Nation," VERB 5.1 (2007): n. pag. Web.