Prerna Singh is Mahatma Gandhi Associate Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs at Brown University, faculty fellow at Brown’s Watson Institute, and co-convener of th...
Bosch Lecture in Public Policy
States, Societies, and the Control of Contagion in China and India
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.
This project is generously supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung