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Stereotypes about exotic peoples and animals of the Orient shaped popular origin stories about COVID-19 in media reports. Outbreak narratives centred on the seafood market in Wuhan began to fall apart as new evidence was published by medical doctors, virologists, and epidemiologists. No viruses in bats or pangolins have been found that are direct ancestors of SARS-CoV2, the virus responsible for COVID-19 symptoms. Viruses are also being transformed as they interact with the human institutions, infrastructures and behaviours that facilitate their spread. Epidemiological growth curves are shaped by national and foreign capital, cosmopolitanism, aspirations for independence and ongoing interdependence, the discourse of power and the discourse of resistance, as well as coexistence and violence. In reckoning with SARS-CoV2, we need to anticipate disruptive surprise of viral emergence rather recursively search for origins. Departing from Foucault's foundational insights, this article gestures towards genealogies of possible viral futures.

Original publication




Journal article


J Bioeth Inq

Publication Date





383 - 387


COVID-19, China, Emergence, Multispecies studies, Orientalism, Animals, COVID-19, China, Chiroptera, Disease Outbreaks, Humans, RNA, Viral, SARS-CoV-2