Northwestern Events Calendar


Marketing Morals: Visualizing Bird Flu Control in Vietnam

When: Wednesday, February 8, 2017
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM Central

Where: 1902 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Graduate Students

Contact: Elizabeth Morrissey  

Group: Equality Development and Globalization Studies (EDGS)

Co-Sponsor: Department of Political Science

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Natalie Porter, University of Notre Dame

EDGS Speaker Series: “Society and Politics in the Asia-Pacific”

Co-sponsored with Political Science and WCAS

This paper examines avian flu communications in Vietnam in order to consider the role of Vietnamese state governing practices in neoliberal global health campaigns. Drawing on ethnographic observations, I show how bird flu communications use social marketing techniques to “sell” healthy behaviors to citizens as health consumers. While this choice-based approach to health provision seems incompatible with a Vietnamese governing system centered on compulsory state directives, my observations show how health workers unite these distinct governing practices in inventive ways. Juxtaposing bird flu communications with critical readings of propaganda posters from Vietnam’s revolutionary era, I argue that bird flu commercials, jingles, slogans, and merchandise draw on longstanding socialist mass mobilization devices to establish a market in healthy behaviors. Symbols of family responsibility, state stewardship, and livestock care, which the government has long used to discipline populations, find particular purchase in this health intervention. My findings suggest that bird flu communications extends a uniquely Vietnamese trade in ideologies and morals, such that disease control manifests as a form of self-sacrifice for family and nation. Taken together, this analysis illustrates the everyday practices through which the Vietnamese state transitions to neoliberal health orders.

Natalie Porter is a medical anthropologist specializing in multispecies anthropology and the anthropology of science, technology, and medicine. Her research explores how pandemic disease threats are transforming scientific knowledge and public health practice worldwide. This work has taken her from high security laboratories in the U.S. and Europe to chicken and duck farms across Vietnam.

Natalie is currently writing a book entitled, Viral Economies: An Ethnography of Bird Flu in Vietnam, which traces several bird flu interventions from their inception in multinational policy arenas through to their implementation in poultry farming communities.

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