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Pandemic Prophecy, or How to Have Faith in Reason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-315
Number of pages20
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014


King's Authors


In scientific discourse, as well as in public debates, scientists are often presented as charismatic prophets with a message for the people. My aim, in this article, is to explore the place of prophecy in today's politics of pandemic preparedness in the United States. How is the category of the unknown invoked in scientifically inspired prophetic proclamations? At stake in such an inquiry are the ways in which a prophetic existence is capacitated or incapacitated at the threshold of the known and the unknown. What does it take for the prophet's voice to be recognized as reasonable and accepted as authoritative? Charismatic personality and discursive authorization play significant roles, to be sure. But the efficacy of pandemic prophecy must also be situated in relation to the temporal sensibilities and anxieties to which they respond. What is the architecture of these sensibilities and anxieties?

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