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Avian influenza, ‘viral sovereignty’, and the politics of health security in Indonesia

Hameiri, S. (2014) Avian influenza, ‘viral sovereignty’, and the politics of health security in Indonesia. The Pacific Review, 27 (3). pp. 333-356.

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In December 2006, Indonesian Health Minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, shocked the world when announcing her government would no longer be sharing samples of the H5N1 avian flu virus, collected from Indonesian patients, with the World Health Organization, at a time when global fears of a deadly influenza pandemic were running high. For observers of Southeast Asian politics, the decision reinforced the view of the region as made up of states determined to protect their national sovereignty, at almost all costs. This established view of the region, however, generally neglects the variable and selective manner in which sovereignty has been invoked by Southeast Asian governments, or parts thereof, and fails to identify the conditions shaping the deployment of sovereignty. In this paper, it is argued that Siti's action was designed to harness claims of sovereignty to a domestic political struggle. It was a response to the growing fragmentation and, in some cases, denationalisation of the governance apparatus dealing with public health in Indonesia, along with the ‘securitisation’ of H5N1 internationally. The examination of the virus-sharing dispute demonstrates that in Southeast Asia sovereignty is not so much the ends of government action, but the means utilised by government actors for advancing particular political goals.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Asia Research Centre
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Copyright: Taylor and Francis
Notes: Published online 24 April 2014
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