The Silenced Pandemic? Reconstructing History and Spatiality of EU’s Biopolitics on Antimicrobial Resistance.

Nora Molinari (SFB 1199 & TU Dresden)& Judith Miggelbrink (SFB 1199 & TU Dresden)

Publication Date

June 2023


SFB 1199 (Leipzig U)




Working Paper


Until now, tracing the genealogical lines of EEC/EU Antibiotic Resistance policy has been a gap in social science research that has focused on the policies of individual countries. This Working Paper raises the question how Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) has developed as an epistemic object in terms of biopolitical and spatial regulatory design of EEC/EU. It also asks what cultural ideas and imaginations have been associated with antibiotics since their introduction. To this end, a historical discourse analysis was conducted combining the perspectives of human geography and historical sociology.

First cases of resistance occurred at short intervals with the introduction of new antibiotics in both human and veterinary medicine, and the discovery of the mechanism of horizontal gene transfer attracted global attention in the 1960s. Nevertheless, the belief in the need for an expansionary mode of production outweighed scientific doubt and the longer-term health of the population, so that regulatory interventions were more appearance than substance. Only in the wake of the geopolitical rise of the EU and BRICS countries and new ‘pandemic risks’, a general turn to security dispositif and neoliberal-individualist governmentality rearranged the coordinates of AMR policy to some extent. The interpretation of our present as a “multi-crisis”, which has become increasingly established in the “West” in the wake of climate crisis and Covid19, is apparently contributing to an increasing assessment of AMR as an unintended side-effect of an expansionary economy and lifestyle, with no regulatory responses to date that address systemic causes rather than suggesting a fiction of control.

Biographical Links

Nora Molinari (SFB 1199 & Technical University Dresden, Germany)

Prof. Dr. Judith Miggelbrink (SFB 1199 & Technical University Dresden, Germany)