Biocontaining during the recent Ebola outbreak served to affirm the social significance of biomedicine, even though it had little measurable effect on the pandemic itself. Taking up key insights of Mary Douglas and Victor Turner concerning the essential meaning-making tasks of culture, this article discusses how biocontaining as an activity contributed to the work of social reassurance and meaning-making in U.S. and global society during the crisis. The analysis is based in significant part on fieldwork done at the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit (NBU), study of NBU educational materials, and follow-up conversations with personnel staffing that unit.


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