Spherologies of Immunisation

  • Nik Brown


Vaccination operates as yet another classic biopolitical dimension of contemporary immunitary life. In recent years, and in particular communities, thresholds of effective vaccination have fallen perilously below recent historic levels, leading to new infectious disease events and posing challenging questions for clinical bodies and government. However, the vaccination debate is only part of a wider picture in tensions between the community and the individual, between public policy and the population, between medical institutions and patients. The politics of vaccination has its roots in the Victorian period and articulates tensions between the laboring classes and ruling elites, together with competing notions of progressive modernity itself. ‘Anti-vaccination’, both as a diffuse phenomenon and as an organised movement, offers a unique opportunity to understand the shifting dimensions of immunitary politics over the course of a century and a half.


  1. Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  2. Bardage, C., Persson, I., Örtqvist, Å., Bergman, U., Ludvigsson, J. F., & Granath, F. (2011). Neurological and autoimmune disorders after vaccination against pandemic influenza A (H1N1) with a monovalent adjuvanted vaccine: Population based cohort study in Stockholm, Sweden. British Medical Journal, 343, 5956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baxby, D. (1999). Edward Jenner’s inquiry; a bicentenary analysis. Vaccine, 17(4), 301–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beck, U., & Beck-Gernsheim, E. (1995). The normal chaos of love. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  5. Blume, S. (2006). Anti-vaccination movements and their interpretations. Social Science & Medicine, 62(3), 628–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brunton, D. (2008). The politics of vaccination: Practice and policy in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, 1800–1874 (Vol. 11). Rochester: University Rochester Press.Google Scholar
  7. Burnet, F. M. (1945). Virus as organism. Evolutionary and ecological aspects of some human virus diseases. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Casper, M. J., & Carpenter, L. M. (2008). Sex, drugs, and politics: The HPV vaccine for cervical cancer. Sociology of Health & Illness, 30(6), 886–899.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chan, M. (2009). World now at the start of 2009 influenza pandemic-statement to the press by WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. WHO Media Centre. Accessed April 2018.
  10. Cohen, J. (2012). Surprising twist in debate over lab-made H5N1. Science, 9(335), 6073.Google Scholar
  11. Colgrove, J. (2006). The ethics and politics of compulsory HPV vaccination. New England Journal of Medicine, 355(23), 2389–2391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Collier, S., & Lakoff, A. (2008). The vulnerability of vital systems: How ‘critical infrastructure’ became a security problem. In M. Dunn Cavelty & K. S. Kristensen (Eds.), The politics of securing the homeland: Critical infrastructure, risk and securitisation (pp. 40–62). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Connell, E., & Hunt, A. (2010). The HPV vaccination campaign: A project of moral regulation in an era of biopolitics. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 35(1), 63.Google Scholar
  14. Coombes, R. (2009). Vaccine disputes. British Medical Journal, 338, b2435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cooper, M. (2006). Pre-empting emergence: The biological turn in the war on terror. Theory, Culture & Society, 23(4), 113–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Delamothe, T. (2010). H1N1: Now entering the recrimination phase. British Medical Journal, 340, c225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Derrida, J. (1998). Faith and knowledge: The two sources of ‘religion’ at the limits of reason alone. In J. Derrida & G. Vattimo (Eds.), Religion: Cultural memory in the present (pp. 1–78). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Derrida, J. (2005). Rogues: Two essays on reason. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Derrida, J., Brunette, P., & Wills, D. (1994). The spatial arts: An interview with Jacques Derrida. In P. Brunette & D. Wills (Eds.), Deconstruction and the visual arts: Art, media, architecture (pp. 9–32). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Durbach, N. (2004). Bodily matters: The anti-vaccination movement in England, 1853–1907. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Durkheim, E. (1982). The rules of sociological method. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Elias, N. (1978). The civilizing process: The history of manners. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  23. Esposito, R. (2008a). The philosophy of Bios. Bios: Biopolitics and philosophy (T. Campbell, Trans.). Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  24. Esposito, R. (2008b). Immunization and Violence (T. Campbell, Trans., from public lecture).Google Scholar
  25. Esposito, R. (2011). Immunitas: The protection and negation of life. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  26. Esposito, R., & Campbell, T. (2006). The immunization paradigm. Diacritics, 36(2), 23–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fichman, M., & Keelan, J. E. (2007). Resister’s logic: The anti-vaccination arguments of Alfred Russel Wallace and their role in the debates over compulsory vaccination in England, 1870–1907. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 38(3), 585–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Flynn, P. (2010). The handling of the H1N1 pandemic: More transparency needed. Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.Google Scholar
  29. Frankenberg, R., Robinson, I., & Delahooke, A. (2000). Countering essentialism in behavioural social sciences: The example of ‘the vulnerable child’ ethnographically examined. Sociology of Health & Illness, 48(4), 586–611.Google Scholar
  30. Gregory, J. (2007). Of Victorians and vegetarians: The vegetarian movement in nineteenth-century Britain. London: IB Tauris.Google Scholar
  31. Hamilton, W. D. (1971). Geometry for the selfish herd. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 31(2), 295–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hausman, B. L. (2017). Immunity, modernity, and the biopolitics of vaccination resistance. Configurations, 25(3), 279–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hawkes, N. (2016). UK stands by nasal flu vaccine for children as US doctors are told to stop using it. British Medical Journal, 353, i3546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hendrick, H. (1997). Children, childhood and English society, 1880–1990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hobson-West, P. (2003). Understanding vaccination resistance: Moving beyond risk. Health, Risk & Society, 5(3), 273–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hobson-West, P. (2007). ‘Trusting blindly can be the biggest risk of all’: Organised resistance to childhood vaccination in the UK. Sociology of Health & Illness, 29(2), 198–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hunt, A. (1997). Moral regulation and making-up the new person: Putting Gramsci to work. Theoretical Criminology, 1(3), 275–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kata, A. (2012). Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm – An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement. Vaccine, 30(25), 3778–3789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Keelan, J. E. (2006). Biopolitics and the body politic: Anti-vaccinationism in Canada from a historical perspective. Comparative Program on Health and Society Lupina Foundation, Working Papers Series 2004–2005, 78.Google Scholar
  40. Kmietowicz, Z. (2014). Study claiming Tamiflu saved lives was based on ‘flawed’ analysis. British Medical Journal, 348, g2228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lahariya, C. (2016). Vaccine epidemiology: A review. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 5(1), 7–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Laplante, J. (2006). Biopolitics of vaccination: Immunity for humanity. American Anthropological Association (AAA), 105th Annual meeting.Google Scholar
  43. Lee, D., & Fulford, T. (2000). The beast within: The imperial legacy of vaccination in history and literature. Literature & History, 9(1), 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lundgren, B. (2015b). The common cold, influenza, and immunity in post-pandemic times. Health, Culture and Society, 8(2), 46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lupton, D. A. (2011). ‘The best thing for the baby’: Mothers’ concepts and experiences related to promoting their infants’ health and development. Health, Risk & Society, 13(7–8), 637–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Martin, E. (1994). Flexible bodies: Tracking immunity in American culture from the days of polio to the age of AIDS. Chicago: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  47. McNally, J. (2001). Biography: A brief life of Dr Edward Jenner. Seminars in Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 12(1), 81–84 Philadelphia: WB Saunders.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Miller, E., Andrews, N., Stellitano, L., Stowe, J., Winstone, A. M., Shneerson, J., & Verity, C. (2013). Risk of narcolepsy in children and young people receiving AS03 adjuvanted pandemic A/H1N1 2009 influenza vaccine: Retrospective analysis. British Medical Journal, 346, 794.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mitchell, P. (2017). Contagion, virology, autoimmunity: Derrida’s rhetoric of contamination. Parallax, 23(1), 77–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Moore, A., & Stilgoe, J. (2009). Experts and anecdotes: The role of ‘Anecdotal evidence’ in public scientific controversies. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 34(5), 654–677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Murcott, A. (1993). Purity and pollution: Body management and the social place of infancy. In S. Scott & D. Morgan (Eds.), Body matters: Essays on the sociology of the body (pp. 122–134). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  52. Mutsaers, I. (2015). One-health approach as counter-measure against ‘autoimmune’ responses in biosecurity. Social Science & Medicine, 129, 123–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Nabel, G. J., Wei, C. J., & Ledgerwood, J. E. (2011). Vaccinate for the next H2N2 pandemic now. Nature, 471, 157–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Nadesan, M. (2010). Governing childhood into the 21st century: Biopolitical technologies of childhood management and education. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. National Audit Office. (2013). Access to clinical trial information and the stockpiling of Tamiflu, 125.Google Scholar
  56. Newman, J. I., Shields, R., & McLeod, C. M. (2016). The MRSA epidemic and/as fluid biopolitics. Body & Society, 22(4), 155–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Orenstein, W., & Seib, K. (2014). Mounting a good offense against measles. New England Journal of Medicine, 371(18), 1661–1663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Osterhaus, A. (2010). Pandemics: Is hoping for the best enough? EMBO Reports, 11, 142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Pedersen, S. (2005). Anti-Condescensionism. London Review of Books, 27(17), 7–8.Google Scholar
  60. Porter, D., & Porter, R. (1988). The politics of prevention: Anti-vaccinationism and public health in nineteenth-century England. Medical History, 32(3), 231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Radetsky, M. (1999). Smallpox: A history of its rise and fall. The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, 18(2), 85–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Razzell, P. (2011). The decline of adult smallpox in eighteenth-century London: A commentary. The Economic History Review, 64(4), 1315–1335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Rogers, A., & Pilgrim, D. (1995). Immunisation and its discontents: An examination of dissent from the UK mass childhood immunisation programme. Health Care Analysis, 3(2), 99–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Rusnock, A. (2009). Catching cowpox: the early spread of smallpox vaccination, 1798–1810. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 83(1), 17–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rybicki, E. (1990). The classification of organisms at the edge of life or problems with virus systematics. South African Journal of Science, 86(4), 182.Google Scholar
  66. Salmon, D. A., Teret, S. P., MacIntyre, C. R., Salisbury, D., Burgess, M. A., & Halsey, N. A. (2006). Compulsory vaccination and conscientious or philosophical exemptions: Past, present, and future. The Lancet, 367(9508), 436–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Scott, A. L. (1999). Physical purity feminism and state medicine in late nineteenth-century England. Women’s History Review, 8(4), 625–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Shildrick, M. (2015a). Leaky bodies and boundaries: Feminism, postmodernism and (bio) ethics. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sloterdijk, P. (2004). Spharen III: Schaume: Plurale Spharologie. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  70. Smith, K. (2012). Producing governable subjects: Images of childhood old and new. Childhood, 19(1), 24–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Stearns, R. P., & Pasti, G. (1950). Remarks upon the introduction of inoculation for smallpox in England. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 24, 103.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Timár, E. (2017). Derrida’s error and immunology. Oxford Literary Review, 39(1), 65–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. von Bubnoff, A. (2005). The 1918 flu virus is resurrected. Nature, 437, 794–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wald, P. (2007). Contagious: Cultures, carriers, and the outbreak narrative. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Williams, S. J., & Bendelow, G. A. (2000). ‘Recalcitrant bodies’? Children, cancer and the transgression of corporeal boundaries. Health, 4(1), 51–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wodarg, W., Aburto Baselga, F., Ayva, L., Conde Bajén, A., Czinege, I., & Flynn, P. (2010). Faked Pandemics: A threat for health. Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly, 18 Dec 2009.Google Scholar
  77. Wolfe, C. (2013). Before the law: Humans and other animals in a biopolitical frame. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  78. Wolfe, R. M., & Sharp, L. K. (2002). Anti-vaccinationists past and present. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 325(7361), 430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Yun, C. H., Leite, L. C., Tagliabue, A., & Boraschi, D. (2015). Vaccines of the future: The role of inflammation and adjuvanticity. Journal of Immunology Research. Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nik Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of YorkYorkUK

Personalised recommendations