A Plague of Rats: The Material and Visual Emergence of Interspecies Urban Epidemic Control

The global pandemic of bubonic plague at the turn of the nineteenth century known as the third plague pandemic struck at major harbours and cities across the globe, leaving behind it 12 million dead. It was in the course of this pandemic that the rat came to be understood for the first time as a vector of the particular disease, thus leading to mass-scale programmes of vector control in cities across the globe. These came to include three types of intervention: rat eradication, rat-proofing and urban demolition. This seminar will explore the unfolding and interrelation of these measures of epidemic control, focusing on the role of visual media in their execution, propagation and entanglement. It will thus explore the lasting legacy of these visual and material regimes of interspecies epidemic control in the urban terrain.