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Center for 21st Century Studies
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Curriculum Vitae


Ice, air, soil, bodies, supply chains, and airplanes. Why have these disparate elements and their entanglements with one another come under the purview of medicine? Drawing her training in visual culture, media, and science and technology together with fields such as medicine, development, and policy, Kim’s research examines how transforming conceptions of microbial life in the late 20th and 21st centuries are shaping the terrain of global health. Two key reconstructions surface here: first, the invention of the Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs) concept by US government scientists in 1989, which recast microbes as mutable, ever-present threats; second, the “discovery” of the global microbiome, which revealed that microbes necessarily exist in, on, and around virtually everything on the planet. How do such reframings of microbes prompt us to confront the limits of biopolitics as an analytical category? How are they redrawing the ontological, material, and political contours of ‘life itself?’

In the 2016-2017 year Kim will complete the manuscript for Transmissions in which she tracks how the EIDs concept expanded the scale of global health governance, aiding the expansion of the US post-cold war security state into the biosphere. Transmissions demonstrates how visualizing technologies developed to sense microbial risks worldwide are key in producing what Kim calls the “transnatural biosphere” – a planetary ecology comprised of enmeshed natural and manufactured entities and processes – as the site of risk. Transmissions explores forms of kinship, means of capital, and senses of nationhood surfacing amid efforts to manage this larger arena of risk.

These insights underpin Kim’s second project. Soap follows contemporary soap through its vast global networks – from manufacture to consumption – to uncover how soap and new soap practices are being emplaced worldwide in an effort to manage the global microbiome. Tracking this effort using perspectives from areas such as new materialism, visual culture, affect, computation, and logistics, Soap opens up this otherwise forgettable object to reveal a complex story about the political, economic, cultural, and ecological forces undergirding the emergence of new, self-perpetuating microbiomic risks of the 21st century.

Gloria Chan-Sook Kim received her PhD from the Graduate Program for Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester, NY. Her dissertation, Transmissions: Public Health Information and Ambient Media in the Era of Emerging Infections Under US Health Security was awarded an Andrew W. Mellon/ American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Fellowship. From 2012- 2014 she was Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Program for Media and Society at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Kim researches and teaches media studies, visual culture, and science and technology studies. Her topic areas include new materialism, posthumanism, affect, ecologies and biospheric risk, and the cultures of computation. In 2014, she was named the Provost Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for 21st Century Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has published in the Journal for Consumption, Markets, and Culture and in various art exhibition catalogues. Her article “Pathogenic Nation-Making: Media Ecologies and American Nationhood Under the Futures of Viral Emergence” is forthcoming in Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology. Kim has worked in the cultural sector, with artists such as Critical Arts Ensemble, exploring issues around biotechnology and bacteria. Her research has been supported by fellowships and awards from the Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender Studies.

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