chapter  10
19 Pages

Imagining future biothreats

The role of popular culture
WithFilippa Lentzos, Jean-Baptiste Gouyon, Brian Balmer

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This chapter explores the role of futurist storytelling in relation to biological weapons. It first describes some of the barriers and difficulties inherent in making realistic assessments of the threat from future biological weapons, before narrowing its focus to an understudied but significant element of these assessments: imagination and popular culture. The chapter makes a theoretical case for why science fiction and anticipatory knowledge production are interlinked, arguing that culture co-constitutes political actors, problems, values, representations and threat assessments, and that culture should be recognized as a major and integral part of the transaction that engenders political behaviour. As such, the chapter uses pop culture as a ‘lens’ to provide insight into understanding how different groups ‘see’ biological weapons and how science fiction has a constitutive effect on biological threat assessments. The argument is illustrated with some of the most prominent examples from the bioweapons sci-fi genre. The chapter concludes with an outlook on key research questions for future work in this area.