Framing disease: The avian influenza pandemic in Australia

Sudeepa Abeysinghe*, Kevin White

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Since 2003, avian influenza has recently spread around the world sparking fears of a potential pandemic. As a result of this, a range of explanations and expectations surrounding the phenomenon were generated. Such social representations of disease depict the issue under discussion and frame reactions to the event. This paper explores the social representations surrounding avian influenza in Australia. Methodologically, a textual analysis of media and government documents was conducted in order to uncover the social representations implicit in these accounts. Tliis demonstrated a symbolic framing of avian influenza with reference to the Spanish Influenza pandemic (1918). Analytically, the study draws upon the concepts of social representations from Durkheim and of risk and symbolic risk in the work of Beck. Overall, it is argued that the framing of avian influenza as a risk, mediated through the collective memory of Spanish Influenza, characterised the nature of the social representations surrounding the phenomenon. This resulted in the production of symbolic solutions to the threat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-381
Number of pages13
JournalHealth sociology review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • avian influenza
  • infectious disease
  • media
  • risk
  • social representations
  • sociology


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