SIU Department Name | Page Title

siu logo siupress logo

SIU logo


Main Content Area

Rhetoric of a Global Epidemic

Rhetoric of a Global Epidemic

Transcultural Communication about SARS

Add to Cart

Huiling Ding


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
336 pages, 6.125 x 9.25, 27 illustrations


Additional Materials

About the Book

2016 CCCC Best Book Award in Technical and Scientific Communication

In the past ten years, we have seen great changes in the ways government organizations and media respond to and report on emerging global epidemics. The first outbreak to garner such attention was SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). In Rhetoric of a Global Epidemic, Huiling Ding uses SARS to explore how various cultures and communities made sense of the epidemic and communicated about it. She also investigates the way knowledge production and legitimation operate in global epidemics, the roles that professionals and professional communicators, as well as individual citizens, play in the communication process, points of contention within these processes, and possible entry points for ethical and civic intervention.

Focusing on the rhetorical interactions among the World Health Organization, the United States, China, and Canada, Rhetoric of a Global Epidemic investigates official communication and community grassroots risk tactics employed during the SARS outbreak. It consists of four historical cases, which examine the transcultural risk communication about SARS in different geopolitical regions at different stages. The first two cases deal with risk communication practices at the early stage of the SARS epidemic when it originated in southern China. The last two cases move to transcultural rhetorical networks surrounding SARS.

With such threats as SARS, avian flu, and swine flu capturing the public imagination and prompting transnational public health preparedness efforts, the need for a rhetoric of global epidemics has never been greater. Government leaders, public health officials, health care professionals, journalists, and activists can learn how to more effectively craft and manage transcultural risk communication from Ding’s examination of the complex and varied modes of communication around SARS. In addition to offering a detailed case study, Rhetoric of a Global Epidemic provides a critical methodology that professional communicators can use in their investigations of epidemics and details approaches to facilitating more open, participatory risk communication at all levels.


Huiling Ding is an assistant professor of professional and technical communication at North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared in a number of journals, including Technical Communication Quarterly, Rhetoric Review, Written Communication, and Journal of Medical Humanities.


"Technical writing needs many more studies like this, and Ding’s Rhetoric of a Global Epidemic: Transcultural Communication about SARS furnishes vocabulary and heuristic tools for the slippery subject of globalization—cultural, financial, rhetorical, and medical."—Michael MadsonTechnical Communication Quarterly

"Overall, Rhetoric of a Global Epidemic is an accessible and enjoyable read that would be useful for both students and scholars of risk communication. Ding’s level of detail and recognition of cultural difference in her examples help to describe how intercultural rhetorics operate without reducing them to a particular perspective."—Kathryn Yankura Swacha and Daniel LiddleJournal of Business and Technical Communication

"Ding has not set out to write the history of SARS, but she does reconstruct and scrutinize how bureaucracies and mass media, both east and west, communicated among themselves and with their publics as the disease emerged in China in November 2002 and began spreading to other countries in the new year. Her analytical tool kit includes elements of classical (even Aristotelean) rhetoric as well as a taxonomy of kinds of cultural flow based on Arjun Appadurai’s anthropology of globalization."—Scott McLemeeInside Highter Ed