Vol 5 No 1 (2021)

Political epistemology of pandemic management

Flavio D’Abramo
Max Planck Institute, Berlin
Giulia Gandolfi
Ca’ Foscari, University of Venice
Gerardo Ienna
Max Planck Institute, Berlin
Pietro Daniel Omodeo
Ca’ Foscari, University of Venice
Charles Wolfe
University Toulouse “Jean Jaurès”
Published October 20, 2021
  • pandemics,
  • biopolitics,
  • political epistemology,
  • history of epidemics


Today, claims about the contiguity of health management and societal organization bring biopolitical concerns to the forefront. This essay offers historical-political insights on the COVID-19 pandemic, which are particularly urgent, as both the temporal and the cultural-political dimensions have been insufficiently considered in current debates. After introducing our specific political-epistemological approach, we delve into the entanglements of medical expertise, economic interests, surveillance politics, and diplomatic relations in the past in order to shed light on the present. Additionally, we address the limitations of Italian theory’s biopolitica, namely its idle radicalization of critical views on medical politics inspired by French épistémologie historique. We conclude with a call to scientists’ responsibility in consideration of the societal embedment of their activity. Yet, the task of an emancipated science is not only in their hands but depends on our collective capacity to organically connect their work to the renewal of the body politics at large.