Panic: Disease, Crisis, and Empire

10 - 11 December 2012

seminar poster

PANIC traces histories of collective panics from nineteenth-century Guangdong to twenty-first century New York. Speakers explore ‘panic’ as a ‘disorder’ produced by networks of empire and state-sponsored responses to epidemics. They consider the ‘contagiousness’ of panic in relation to the disruptive feedbacks created by novel technologies of global communication.

When, how, and why did ‘panic’ become a sociological and scientific phenomenon to be managed and prevented? What can the past teach us about disease threats and panics to come?


Day 1


10:00 – 10:15



10:15 – 12:30

Session I
Chair: Dr. Mark Hampton (Lingnan University)

Dr. Kerry Ward (Rice University)
‘Seaborne Scourge: Local Responses to Disease at the Cape from the 18th to 20th Centuries’

Professor John M. Carroll (University of Hong Kong)
‘Slow Burn: Western Concerns about Fire in Pre-Opium War Canton’

Dr. James Beattie (University of Waikato)
‘A “shock which … can scarcely be understood”: Health Panics, Migration, and Plant Exchange between India and Australia Post-1857’


12:30 – 14:15


14:15 – 16:30

Session II
Chair: Professor Frank Dikötter (University of Hong Kong)

Professor David Arnold (University of Warwick)
‘The Dog that Didn’t Bark: Comparing the Plague and Influenza Epidemics in British India,

Dr. Joao Rangel de Almeida (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)
‘Performing Empires in a Sick World: the 1851 International Sanitary Conference and Mediterranean Sovereignty Bargains’

Dr. Robert Peckham (University of Hong Kong)
‘Panic Encabled: Epidemics and the ‘Telegraphic World’ ’


Day 2


09:45 – 10:00


10:00 – 12:00

Session III
10:00am – 12:00pm
Chair: Professor Richard Fielding (University of Hong Kong)

Professor Amy L. Fairchild (Columbia University)
‘Panic’s Progress: From Chaos, to Containment, to Crisis Management’

Dr. Nicholas King (McGill University)
‘The Iconography of New Infectious Threats, 1936-2009’


12:00 – 14:15


14:15 – 15:15

Round Table Discussion