Date of Graduation

Fall 12-16-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Lucia Cantero


Contagion events have occurred throughout history leaving death and destruction in their wake. Often sensationalized in movies and shows such as Contagion and The Walking Dead, contagion events are life-altering events filled with gory symptoms and elevated mortality rates. The dangers of contagion events prompted governments to develop agencies with the purpose of preventing and mitigating the risks contagions pose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies across the globe pour millions of dollars each year into eliminating the risk of contagions and making the world a safer place. However, while more resources are dedicated to fighting contagion events than ever before, risk remains and new areas of tension are borne out of disease management. The Politics of Contagion explores three recent contagion events and unpacks the consequences of each event. The Anthrax contagion of 2001, Ebola of 2014, and the current Zika outbreak are examined as well as the role of the CDC. The Politics of Contagion analyzes the role of policy via the CDC in contagion events and explores its effects or moments of tension. Moments of tension during contagion events can include the creation of risk groups, racism, and economic damages. While we have come a long way from the days of the Black Plague, this analysis highlights the areas where improvement is needed. From the media panic and hostility toward CDC-Ebola policies in 2014 to the current decline in tourism to Zika hotbeds, this text highlights the role policy plays in the creation of these moments of tension. At the center of this thesis is Foucault’s argument that power resides in every area of life. If power indeed exists everywhere, then power must also lie in the CDC and its policies concerning contagion events. The power is exercised via CDC policies and recommendations and ultimately aids in the birthing of many moments of tension. These moments of tension echo beyond the borders of the United States, and flow throughout the global community. Through analyzing the CDC’s handling of the case studies included in this thesis, I unpack the moments of tension and argue the role of power in the policies, which have the unintended effect of aiding in the creation of moments of tension for both United States citizens and individuals beyond U.S. borders.