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ABSTRACT

The former Soviet Republic of Georgia has the world's highest rate of botulism—a rate over 90 times the U.S. rate. Why is Georgia disproportionately affected by this potentially fatal disease? I argue that unraveling the origins of hyperendemic botulism requires a new understanding of the state, one that sees it not only as an ensemble of actors, ideas, and objects but also as a phenomenon that creates discontiguous and variegated spaces. I trace the economic origins of botulism in Georgia to the organization of the Soviet state and the way it collapsed, examine how local ideas of purity and danger affect the range of possible solutions, and look at the ways that new kinds of state projects create isolation and disease as well as inclusion and health. [botulism, Georgia, state, epidemiology, public health, food safety, postsocialism]