Epidemic and pandemic threats contour our contemporary political rationalities and social realities. Emerging and re-emerging infections, from HIV/AIDS to SARS and from Ebola to yellow fever, routinely expose the weakness of our collective systems of disease surveillance and control, fuelling anxieties of future, and increasingly catastrophic, pandemics (Caduff 2015). The ‘outbreak narrative’ that dominates the contemporary public discourse is propelled by the figure of the commercial aircraft, transporting local contagions across continents (Wald 2008). While the viruses that spill over from wild animals to remote village populations occupy pride of place in these end-of-the-world fantasies (Garret 1994; Preston 1994; see also King 2002; Peckham 2013), today the pathogens that could spark global pandemics might as easily evolve in antimicrobial-rich hospital environments in Europe and the United States (Chandler et al. 2016; Landecker 2016). Epidemics are the dark side of modernisation, medical and political progress; they represent the impossibility of securing the body politic in an ever-more interconnected, technologically advanced and globalised world. Historian Mark Harrison (2016) notes that the term ‘pandemic’ has been applied to diseases spreading across the globe only since the late nineteenth century, even if other societies have had different ideas about how diseases spread in a given community (which is the Greek meaning of epidemics). Responding to, and preparing for, the inevitable and yet unpredictable emergence of new epidemics and pandemics has become a prolific terrain for imagining the future of humanity. Epidemics prompt the question: how and through what mechanisms can we continue to live together?