Rhetoric of a Global Epidemic: Transcultural Communication about SARS

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Southern Illinois University Press, Apr 17, 2014 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 328 pages
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In the past ten years, we have seen great changes in the ways government organizations and media respond to and report on emerging global epidemics. The first outbreak to garner such attention was SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). In Rhetoric of a Global Epidemic, Huiling Ding uses SARS to explore how various cultures and communities made sense of the epidemic and communicated about it. She also investigates the way knowledge production and legitimation operate in global epidemics, the roles that professionals and professional communicators, as well as individual citizens, play in the communication process, points of contention within these processes, and possible entry points for ethical and civic intervention.

Focusing on the rhetorical interactions among the World Health Organization, the United States, China, and Canada, Rhetoric of a Global Epidemic investigates official communication and community grassroots risk tactics employed during the SARS outbreak. It consists of four historical cases, which examine the transcultural risk communication about SARS in different geopolitical regions at different stages. The first two cases deal with risk communication practices at the early stage of the SARS epidemic when it originated in southern China. The last two cases move to transcultural rhetorical networks surrounding SARS.

With such threats as SARS, avian flu, and swine flu capturing the public imagination and prompting transnational public health preparedness efforts, the need for a rhetoric of global epidemics has never been greater. Government leaders, public health officials, health care professionals, journalists, and activists can learn how to more effectively craft and manage transcultural risk communication from Ding’s examination of the complex and varied modes of communication around SARS. In addition to offering a detailed case study, Rhetoric of a Global Epidemic provides a critical methodology that professional communicators can use in their investigations of epidemics and details approaches to facilitating more open, participatory risk communication at all levels.

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About the author (2014)

Huiling Ding is an assistant professor of professional and technical communication at North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared in a number of journals, including Technical Communication Quarterly, Rhetoric Review, Written Communication, and Journal of Medical Humanities.

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