Location Zero, Pt. 4

Here’s the entry for Index Case in that font of all digital miscellany, Wikipedia:

An index case is the patient that serves as the central point of reference in a disease outbreak. This may be the initial case identified in an outbreak. A synonym may be patient zero. The first generation of cases from the index case are primary cases. Cases that arise from the primary cases are considered secondary cases. The concepts of an index case, proband, and informant are similar but arise from different disciplines. Babbage has a great description of informants in sociological research. (Babbage 2007) The index case is typically used by disease outbreak (usually an infectious disease) invesitgators, epidemiologists, physicians, and communicable disease nurses to describe the case that is noticed first in a case series, outbreak or epidemic. The proband is used in genetics to describe the case that seeks treatment first. The proband case typically is a disease that has a genetic basis. In sociological research conducted in the field an informant is sometimes used to overcome obstacles to recognizing culturally specific information. A proband and index case may also be used as an informant in disease outbreak investigations. Epidemiology, genetics, and sociological research may overlap. In these cases, the terms may be used interchangeably.

Interesting in its cross-disciplinary referencing. Wonder how accurate it is. Will investigate – intrigued that an Index Case, a Patient Zero, has a social science corollary. Informant, in sociology, is conceptually akin to Index Case. Kin, as an extension, is conceptually and practically central to anthropology. Not much of a stretch to see where Index Cases bridge physical and human terrain. As we’ve seen with the Human Terrain Team issue, anthropology’s been deployed in counterinsurgency. Anthropology relies on Informants, so the initial/first/primary Informant in any particular COIN-operated anthro study, if you’ll excuse the pun, is a kind of Index Case.

Human terrain mapping is about understanding the human environment in which complex threats are embedded. That same embeddedness is a symptom of another uneven dyadic relationship, civilian/militant or combatant/noncombatant. Given the way non-combatants traditionally get squeezed between opposing sides in an asymmetric conflict – suggesting a great deal of power imbalance in the way the parts of the pair self-perceive – it’s not much of a stretch to situate them within Koselleck’s asymmetric counterconcept model.

According to Medecine.Net’s online medical dictionary, an Index Case is

A person who first draws attention to their [sic] family. For example, if my eye doctor discovers I have glaucoma and subsequently other cases of glaucoma are found in my family, I am the index case. Also called the propositus (if male) or proposita (if female).

No real requirement that I can see for “Index Case” to have to introduce or be based on a contagion argument. Just the first indexed case in a noted series, trajectory, evolution, development, etc. A genealogical point of origin. Ahhh, there we go. I’m liking this line of thought.

So…. if system/sanctuary are asymmetric counterconcepts… do they have an Index Case? Is there a “Location Zero” that precedes the system/sanctuary dyad? Is there a Location Zero that precedes the combatant/non-combatant pair? Right. Those are the questions, aren’t they?

I might have missed the obvious – again. As zero tropes go, “ground zero” should be hard to forget, given the events of the last few years. So, from ground zero to suspect zero’s location zero, there might be a consistent line to work through…. more later.

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