"Is it Going to be Real?" Narrative and Media on a Pandemic


  • Mark Davis Monash University




pandemics, media analysis, narrative analysis, interviews, focus groups, Scotland, Australia


In this article, I examine the narrative-media nexus as it relates to pandemics. Communications feature in global public health efforts to address the emergence of a pandemic, an event typically marked by the proliferation of news stories. Pandemics are also a perennial subject of film, television, literature and online games and pandemic narratives travel across and blend the genres of science fiction, alien invasion and zombie horror. Underlining this genre-blending, public health communication on pandemics has appropriated the figure of the zombie to encourage interest in preparation for pandemic threats. Drawing on examples from public communications and popular culture in dialogue with interviews and focus groups conducted with health professionals and members of the general public, I advance an account of the transmediated knowledge and meanings of pandemic narrative. I examine how pandemics become objects of knowledge in narrative, the ways in which narrative is appropriated to communicate a pandemic's temporal and affective qualities, and how, in the circumstances of an actual outbreak, publics are invited to consider themselves as the ideal, "alert, but not alarmed" subjects of the pandemic storyworld.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1701187


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Author Biography

Mark Davis, Monash University

Mark DAVIS is associate professor in the School of Social Sciences, Monash University, Australia. He is chief investigator on an Australian Research Council Discovery project addressing the general public, scientific and public policy aspects of pandemic influenza. He has published widely on influenza and other pandemics in journals, including Sociology of Health and Illness, Social Science and Medicine, Sociological Inquiry and Body & Society. His books include: "Sex, Technology and Public Health" (Palgrave, 2009); "HIV Treatment and Prevention Technologies in International Context" (edited with Corinne SQUIRE, Palgrave, 2010); "Disclosure in Health and Illness" (edited with Lenore MANDERSON, Routledge, 2014), and "What is Narrative Research?" (with Corinne SQUIRE, Molly ANDREWS, Barbara HARRISON, Lars-Christer HYDEN, and Margareta HYDEN, Bloomsbury, 2014).




How to Cite

Davis, M. (2017). "Is it Going to be Real?" Narrative and Media on a Pandemic. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-18.1.2768



Analyzing Narratives Across Media