ABSTRACT

In November 2015, the Brazilian Health Ministry declared a Public Health Emergency of National Concern (known as an ESPIN) because of a rapid increase in unexpected, and unexplained, cases of microcephaly in newborn babies in the northeastern region. The ESPIN announcement was issued by the Health Ministry and published as a portaria (an ordinance) (2015a). The Brazilian Health Ministry issued a series of such bureaucratic directives during the Zika epidemic, and these documents can shed light on state-directed form of governance by tracing what Veena Das (2006) has called the literacy of the state: the series of everyday performances in documents and signatures that act as forms of governance, created by technologies of writing and their corresponding power.