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"The sentinels of pandemics": conversation between Frédéric Keck and Guillaume Lachenal


Frédéric Keck est anthropologue. Il dirige le Laboratoire d’anthropologie sociale au CNRS. Dernière publication : Les sentinelles des pandémies. Chasseurs de virus et observateurs d’oiseaux aux frontières de la Chine (Zones Sensibles, avril 2020).


Guillaume Lachenal est historien des sciences, chercheur au médialab Sciences Po. Il est l’auteur de Le médicament qui devait sauver l’Afrique (La Découverte, 2014) et Le médecin qui voulut être roi (Seuil, 2017). 

Due to recent developments, this conference originally scheduled for November 3 has been postponed. A new date will be announced shortly.

This conference will only be accessible online due to the current exceptional circumstances.  To watch the conference and ask your questions: 

French version

English version

We will have the great pleasure of welcoming the anthropologist and philosopher Frédéric Keck and the historian Guillaume Lachenal for a conference-debate on the recently published book « Les sentinelles des pandémies : Chasseurs de virus et observateurs d'oiseaux aux frontières de la Chine » (éditions Zones sensibles) (in English : Avian Reservoirs: Virus Hunters and Birdwatchers in Chinese Sentinel Posts ; Duke University Press), based on an ethnographic survey conducted in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore between 2007 and 2013. The author, Frédéric Keck, takes a sinuous, abundant and scholarly dive into the world of preparing and heralding signs of future pandemics. These three territories, which are located on chinese borders and connected to the rest of the world, are sentinels of future epidemics in which animals play a particular role. But it is the fractal nature of this concept of "sentinel" and its many levels - from viruses to birds, and to the countries themselves - that also make this book fascinating.

With Frédéric Keck and Guillaume Lachenal, we will discuss epidemic preparedness: how have Asian countries set up virus surveillance companies? At the end of which competition, especially between states?  How have epidemic surveillance techniques evolved? What do these techniques say about our relationship with animals? How do we view their results in view of the current Covid-19 pandemic?

More generally, we will focus on the contribution of social sciences to the understanding and response to epidemics.


Frédéric Keck is an anthropologist. He is head of the Social Anthropology Laboratory at the CNRS. Last publication:Avian Reservoirs: Virus Hunters and Birdwatchers in Chinese Sentinel Posts (Duke University Press, January 2020)

Guillaume Lachenal is a science historian, researcher at the Sciences Po medialab. He is the author of "Le médicament qui devait sauver l’Afrique" (The Medicine Meant to Save Africa)(La Découverte, 2014) and "Le médecin qui voulut être roi" (The Doctor Who Would Be King) (Seuil, 2017).  We received him in 2015 : https://www.msf-crash.org/fr/rencontres-debats/le-medicament-qui-devait-sauver-lafrique.


To cite this content :
Frédéric Keck, Guillaume Lachenal, "The sentinels of pandemics": conversation between Frédéric Keck and Guillaume Lachenal, 3 November 2020, URL : http://msf-crash.org/index.php/en/conferences-debates/sentinels-pandemics-conversation-between-frederic-keck-and-guillaume-lachenal

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