Drs Mohammed Rafi Arefin, Carolyn Prouse, and Josie Wittmer
Funding period: 1 May 2022 – 30 April 2023
Type of funding: Other Grants
Partner organisations: University of British Columbia, Department of Geography (Canada), and Queen’s University, Surveillance Studies Centre (Canada).
Lead organisers: Drs Mohammed Rafi Arefin, Carolyn Prouse, and Josie Wittmer.
Team members: Dr Amber Benezra.
Contact: Dr Mohammed Rafi Arefin.
This research project was funded by a USF Pandemics and Cities grant.
Abstract: Scientists across the globe are working with biotechnology companies and municipal officials to study and surveil the microbial life of urban sewers in order to predict and manage pandemics. Wastewater-Based Epidemiology (WBE) involves sampling urban sewage to detect biomarkers for disease and make near real-time assessments of a city’s health. Currently deployed in over 58 countries, WBE is heralded as the future of governing urban health in smart cities for its alleged non-invasive and potentially automatable mode of collecting and analyzing health data. Consolidated in a global crisis, WBE is fundamentally transforming the relationship between waste, health, and urban governance. Yet, the socioecological and biosurveillance implications of WBE are unknown even as the tools of this field are being rapidly deployed. In this project between the University of British Columbia and Queen’s University, we ask: how is WBE transforming municipal governance mechanisms and becoming a new site of capital accumulation, and with what effects on whom?