Until Proven Safe
Geoff Manaugh, Nicola Twilley
‘Manaugh and Twilley shed illuminating light on a phenomenon that seems utterly of the present moment.’ Financial Times’ Best Books of the Year
‘Startlingly timely, authoritatively researched, and electrifyingly written.’ Steve Silberman, author of NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
Quarantine has shaped our world, yet it remains both feared and misunderstood. It is our most powerful response to uncertainty, but it operates through an assumption of guilt: in quarantine, we are considered infectious until proven safe. An unusually poetic metaphor for moral and mythic ills, quarantine means waiting to see if something hidden inside of us will be revealed.
Until Proven Safe tracks the history and future of quarantine around the globe, chasing the story of emergency isolation through time and space – from the crumbling lazarettos of the Mediterranean to the hallways of the CDC, to the corporate giants hoping to disrupt the widespread quarantine imposed by Covid-19 before the next pandemic hits through surveillance and algorithmic prediction.
Yet quarantine is more than just a medical tool: Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley drop deep into the Earth to tour a nuclear-waste isolation facility beneath the New Mexican desert, strip down to nothing but protective Tyvek suits to see plants stricken with a disease that threatens the world’s wheat supply, and meet NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer tasked with saving the Earth from extraterrestrial infections.
The result is part travelogue, part intellectual history – a book as compelling as it is definitive, and one that could not be more urgent or timely.
Reads like a global safari of humanity's best-laid plans being never quite enough . . . [Manaugh and Twilley] are well-placed to tell the tale, weaving the spatial, social and scientific facets of medical isolation into an entertaining adventure. -- Oliver Wainwright * Guardian * A timely intellectual history of quarantine . . . As Manaugh and Twilley write, quarantine is enforced in cases of potential infection, of possible risk, and therefore admits a degree of uncertainty. One of the striking continuities in their history is how this uncertainty has been exploited to deepen gendered and racialised inequalities. -- Erin Maglaque * New Statesman * A compelling case that we must continue to refine the use of quarantine, balancing the needs of public health with those of human rights. * New Yorker * Until Proven Safe is not all doom and gloom, though: there are plenty of QI-style facts in this wide-ranging and colourful survey. -- Christopher Hart * Sunday Times * Until Proven Safe, by Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley, dives into the crudely effective and widely abused strategy of quarantine, the separation of those feared to be sick from those deemed healthy. -- Ian Sample * Guardian Best Science Books of the Year * Brainy but accessible -- Mark Honigsbaum * Observer * Manaugh and Twilley shed illuminating light on a phenomenon that seems utterly of the present moment. * Financial Times' Best Books of the Year * [Manaugh and Twilley] bring an impressively wide range of interests to bear on a subject that involves not only infectious disease but also - in their ambitious yet seamless narration - politics, agriculture, surveillance and even outer space. -- Jennifer Szalai * New York Times Book Review * What makes [Until Proven Safe] compelling, besides [Manaugh and Twilley's] extensive experience as journalists, is the depth of their research coupled with a firm conviction that quarantine, a mighty yet dangerous weapon, must be used 'more wisely in the future' . . . This is an exceptionally powerful book -- A. Roger Ekirch * Wall Street Journal * Until Proven Safe is uncanny in its prescience . . . Twilley and Manaugh see things that others don't. Their insatiable curiosity reveals itself through all of their endeavors -- Allison Arieff * San Francisco Chronicle * Manaugh's and Twilley's extensive history of a concept we might otherwise take for granted is actually the perfect postpandemic read - an imaginative, layperson-friendly way to make sense of and contextualize what we just lived through. -- Arianna Rebolini * BuzzFeed * Quarantine provides a buffer and a delay, offering space and time, between the known (healthy folks) and the dangerous (potentially contagious people). Its complicated nature is adeptly explored, including ethical concerns, legal and moral questions, and enforcement challenges . . . Fascinating reading. -- Tony Miksanek * Booklist * A riveting and timely look at how humanity has protected itself by isolating segments of its populations. . . Manaugh and Twilley cull their research into a concise and logical series of recommendations for future public health crises, grounded in a deep appreciation of the human impact of quarantining. * Publishers Weekly * Captivating . . . Manaugh and Twilley meld a global view of a timely subject with vividly detailed accounts . . . But a larger charm of this smart book lies in their ability to bring potentially dry topics to life . . . An infectiously appealing overview of efforts to contain the potentially infectious. * Kirkus Reviews * Until Proven Safe is the book of our historical moment - a provocative meditation on how society uses quarantine to define the boundaries of self and other when faced with the terrifying unknown. Startlingly timely, authoritatively researched, and electrifyingly written. -- Steve Silberman, author of NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity Until Proven Safe combines history, geography, epidemiology, and the ethics of space exploration - how can this be - Because, as the authors explain in a very entertaining and wide-ranging way, quarantine, ironically enough, crosses borders of space and time to make a complex knot of stories. Timely, eye-opening, provocative - you will see the world differently after reading it. -- Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Ministry for the Future What does it mean to isolate threats: people carrying diseases; the microbes, themselves; radioactive materials? For centuries the primary tool of isolation has been quarantine, and in this globe-trotting tale of history and today's COVID-19 crisis, Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley offer answers that will make your jaw drop. Nothing about "quarantine" is as simple or straight-forward as you think. -- Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World out of Balance An engrossing study of the ways in which quarantines have changed social, emotional, and political life over hundreds of years, and a fascinating exploration of the perennial roles of fear, conspiracy theories, greed, and prejudice, to which we now add the threat of permanent digital surveillance in the name of public health. Perfect for our time and guidance for the future. -- Ellen Ullman, author of Close to the Machine and Life in Code As Twilley and Manaugh reveal in this timely but timeless, ambitious and flawlessly executed account, quarantines have shaped our history . . . The struggle to protect ourselves from invisible and deadly contagions is waged daily and largely out of sight - along borders and spore superhighways, in biosecure piggeries and nuclear waste facilities a half-mile underground. Quarantine: boring to live through, unbelievably interesting to read about. -- Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Grunt Strap on your plague beaks and round up the loose women! In this intrepid, occasionally creepy jaunt through seven centuries of disease control, Twilley and Manaugh prove that the past is never dead; it's just in quarantine. -- Alexis Coe, author of You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington
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