Test Cover Image of:  Bio-Imperialism


Disease, Terror, and the Construction of National Fragility

Bio-Imperialism focuses on an understudied dimension of the war on terror—the fight against bioterrorism. This component of the war enlisted the biosciences and public health fields to build up the U.S. biodefense industry and U.S. global disease control. The book argues that U.S. imperial ambitions drove these shifts in focus, aided by gendered and raced discourses on terrorism, disease, and science. It demonstrates that the U.S. government and mass media amplified Orientalist tropes of Arabs, Muslims, and other racially marginalized communities as terrorists and disease carriers, and also circulated metaphors of white feminine fragility to stoke a sense of national fragility against bioterrorism and other germ threats. These narratives helped rationalize American research expansion into dangerous germs and bioweapons in the name of biodefense, and further, bolstered the U.S. rationale for increased interference in the disease control decisions of global south nations. Bio-Imperialism is a sobering look at how the war on terror impacted the world in ways that we are only just starting to grapple with.

Author Information

Gwen Shuni D’Arcangelis is an associate professor of gender studies at Skidmore College, in Saratoga Springs, New York.


"In this astute and timely study, D’Arcangelis tracks the rise of a racialized and gendered 'bioterror imaginary' in the US through science, politics, journalism, social media, and popular culture that facilitated the conversion of warnings of bioterror into a strategy for US imperialism. Bio-Imperialismoffers an urgent analysis of how the US produces the threats to the health of a population it ostensibly seeks to address."
— Priscilla Wald, author of Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative

"D’Arcangelis provides a rich, timely, must-read account of the United States’ bioterror imaginary and its role in the construction of national fragility. Bio-Imperialismrecounts tales of terrorism, technoscience, caregiving, and preparedness that are entangled in a nationalism conflating public health and national security. In so doing, the book provides impressive insight into the racialized and gendered dynamics underlying the United States’ re-presentation and repurposing of science and health, and the dangers therein."
— Laura Sjoberg, co-author of International Relations' Last Synthesis?

Audience: College/higher education;