Security and health: Biopolitical health surveillance in China’s digital response to COVID-19

Date created: 
Institutional ethnography
Digital health surveillance
Security and health
Surveillance studies

Why is health a security issue now? An emerging paradigm that links epidemics and security concerns has influenced how we think about health and the preparedness of health surveillance. As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has swept the world with its tremendous threats to public health and societies, innovative digital health surveillance technologies have been (and continue to be) developed for pandemic surveillance. With a special focus on China’s Health Code system and its implementation in Wuhan since the Wuhan lockdown, this thesis aims to examine the surveillance dynamics of such technological artefacts. In doing so, this thesis applies institutional ethnography (IE) to illustrate how the ruling relations embedded in such assemblages coordinate and organize citizens’ everyday lives. The primary findings of this thesis suggest that Health Code as a health security practice is a flexible and dynamic surveillance assemblage embedded with political classifications and decisions to define and mediate risk in everyday settings, located in a larger network of power relations. The insecurities and anxieties brought by the normalized use of Health Code exacerbate the fear of being classified as sick, as the threat of illness leads people to embrace the current situation and cooperate with the existing surveillance system through the rationalization of collective norms and the valorization and stabilization of data-driven knowledge.

Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Ellen Balka
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.