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Germ WarsThe Politics of Microbes and America's Landscape of Fear$
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Melanie Armstrong

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520292765

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520292765.001.0001

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The Wild Microbiological West

The Wild Microbiological West

Fighting Ticks and Weighing Risks

(p.97) 3 The Wild Microbiological West
Germ Wars

Melanie Armstrong

University of California Press

Biological laboratories propagate the idea of biosecurity in its original sense: using technological practices to contain and control microbes. Today, biosecurity is understood broadly as the elimination of vulnerability to biological threats. This chapter describes a debate that tore at the threads of community in Hamilton, Montana, during which residents asserted that the government must protect citizens from the risks created by the first high-security, BSL-4 laboratory to be built since 9/11. In public discourse and eventually in the courtroom, residents demanded that the government assess risk in terms of a newly dangerous world. The 100-year history of the Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows repeated discord between scientists’ faith in technological containment and citizens’ imaginings of their own biological demise.

Keywords:   laboratory, biosecurity, technology, governance, citizenship, risk, containment, vulnerability, 9/11, science

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