To read this content please select one of the options below:

Swine flu in Buenos Aires: beyond the principle of resilience

Maximiliano E. Korstanje (Department of Economics, University of Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina)

International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment

ISSN: 1759-5908

Article publication date: 1 March 2011




Throughout April/May of 2009 a new type of virus surfaced in Mexico and the USA, denominated H1N1 or swine flu, that has been immediately disseminated worldwide. Even though the mortality of this virus has been slow, comparing with other antecedents, the mass‐media articulated a troublesome discourse that put the world in tenterhooks waiting for the evolution of the symptoms. Emulating the mythical archetype of what we knew as Spanish flu, which affected more than 50 million people during 1918 and 1920, journalism triggered panic in the four corners of the world. Under such a context, the purpose of this paper is to explore the connection between the coverage of mass‐media and press of swine flu in Buenos Aires (Argentina), and how the principle of resilience in this conjuncture works.


In order to understand this issue in an all‐encompassed manner, the author conducted ethnography in Buenos Aires during April to June of 2009 combining informal with formal interviews and analysis of contents extracted of press coverage. It is important to mention that the role of observer was hidden to capture vividly the social behaviour as long as a context of health emergency.


The findings of this research reveal that fear becomes an efficient instrument to keep the status quo in context of disasters. In addition, it is important to clarify that virtual disasters do not permit societies to learn of their tragedies and affects considerably their abilities for resilience.

Research limitations/implications

Unfortunately, there is no abundant literature to support the outcomes of the present paper in respect to swine flu. Beyond ethical boundaries of journalism, the point of discussion, here, seems to be whether news should be edited or transmitted in rough during a moment of uncertainty. As a whole, the debate is circumscribed to non‐edited news which can result in uncontrollable society response, while edited news jeopardizes the freedom of the press.


This paper provides an original point of view that contrasts the thesis of Baudrillard in respect to the spectacle of disaster. The panic disseminated by media blurs the boundaries between culprit and innocence presenting to the poorest sectors as the main concerns of society. That way, the earlier imbalances that allowed the disasters are replicated once again. In contrast with Baudrillard, this paper considers that Swine flu really took place and was something other than a show. An event like this, elaborated and commercialized is of course, aimed at reinforcing the legitimacy of privileged groups.



Korstanje, M.E. (2011), "Swine flu in Buenos Aires: beyond the principle of resilience", International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 59-73.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles