Introduction | Hsiao-hung Chang

by Critical Asia

by Hsiao-hung Chang, June 2022】

The crises brought by the COVID-19 pandemic prompt the development of different types of vaccines at an unprecedented rate. We witness that how the vaccination coverage ratio has become an indicator of the country’s advancement in healthcare system, government efficiency and national income. We also learn about the skepticisms, debates and even wild imaginations brought by vaccination in terms of efficacy, safety, freedom of choice and the possible dangerous or revolutionary exchange of genetic materials between humans and viruses.

Six articles by Taiwan scholars are composed here under the topic of “Vaccine: Molar and Molecular.” The first article, “Taiwan’s Problematic Shift to ‘Living with Virus’ Covid Policy in 2022: Its Recent Historical and Social Processes,” by Daiwie Fu criticizes the hasty decision of Taiwan’s Covid-19 pandemic control from the zero-COVID strategy to the “living with the virus” policy. It explores the historical and political formation of Taiwan’s CECC (Central Epidemic Control Center) and foregrounds how the DPP administration and CECC decision become authoritarian for lack of public debates and of attention to the socially (not merely medically) high risk people. Instead of blaming biopolitical administration, the second article, “The Uncanny Logic of the COVID-19 Coronavirus,” by Han-yu Cory Huang deals also with the “living with the virus” model as a global issue and its “returning to normality” ideology from both the neo-liberal and left-wing sides by advocating a going beyond the structured distinction between normality and state of exception. It explores creatively the “post-pandemic temporality” as an uncanny futurity haunting us to live not only in the “always-already-thereness” of the virus and its ongoing variations, but also in the undead, chronic time of the pandemic. The third article, “The Controversies Over Lockdowns for the COVID-19 Pandemic: Toward an Open Society,” by Yulin Lee also provides an affirmative view of biopolitics on the policy of “co-existing with the virus” recently enacted in Taiwan by posing it in contrast to the strict lockdown, especially in light of the recent Shanghai lockdown, in China. By taking the contrast as the one between two different modes of biopolitics, instead of the dichotomized regime types of the democratic and the authoritarian, it successfully maps out the deployment of scientist knowledge, affection management, information technology, and the vaccine types involved in its compare-and-contrast framework.

Following Fu’s concern of the Medigan Covid-19 vaccine (MVC) as a MIT (Made in Taiwan) product which uses the new methodology of “immuno-bridging” to skip the phase three clinical trial, and Lee’s comparison of the “live attenuated vaccines” used in China and the mRNA vaccine chiefly used in Taiwan, the fourth article, “Differential Immunity as Our Responsibility,” by Wan-shuan Lin explores further the rumors and fears of having their body magnetized or DNA altered after getting vaccinated. Instead of promising the safety of the vaccines as assured repeatedly by health officials and medical experts, it challenges the myth of “vaccination-without-genetic-communication” in an attempt to re-conceptualize immunity as a dynamic process that leads to a rethinking of intra-active responsibly. Lin’s emphasis on “agential realism” and “intra-activity” proposed by Karan Barad is continued to be carried forward beautifully in the fifth article, “Diffractive Immunity: Remember the Future for Me,” by Chun-Mei Chuang, alone with the Deleuzian “rhizome.” It highlights further Barad’s elaboration on “diffraction” as the reconfiguration of differentiating-entangling patternings and thus takes infection and immunity as micropolitical events and symbiotic assemblages in non-linear trans-species coevolution. Also taking the Deleuzian “rhizome,” Barad’s “intra-action” and immunological memory as points of departure, the last article in this special issue, “On Becoming-Molecular: Vaccines, Autoimmunity, and Negotiation,” by Chung-Hsiung Lai attempts to interlace the concepts of Deleuze, Guattari and Derrida by taking “becoming-molecular” in the post-pandemic time as a deconstructive aporia between humans and viruses. While examining vaccination as a protective mode of becoming-others at the bio-medical level, it takes autoimmunity as a defensive mode of self-destruction, currently triggering at local and global levels various kinds of fake news, racist violence and paranoiac conspiracy theories, and asks for, instead of a total solution, an urgent negotiation in-between.

Though taking “molar and molecular” as its sub-title, this special issue on vaccine is not limited to the Deleuzo-Guattarain theory. The six articles cover a wide range of philosophers, thinkers and scientists, such as Agamben, Barad, Derrida, Haraway, Margulis and Sagan, Žižek et al., and shift contingently among biological, biomedical, biopolitical, and ethical levels. They help to destabilize any boundary between self/nonself, human/nonhuman, normality/exception and here-now/there-then and can be read collectively as their response and response-ability to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic that is still extensively and intensively affecting Taiwan, East Asia and the world.

Hsiao-hung Chang, National Taiwan University, Taiwan

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