What does anthropological research and analysis in the time of COVID-19 offer? The following are only a few examples of the fascinating, interdisciplinary perspectives that anthropology brings to the discussion table.
“Since few things are as pervasive as a global pandemic, there is hardly any subject (in anthropology and beyond) which we could not reconceptualize by taking account of COVID-19.” With these words, anthropology professor Judith Beyer describes the wide impact of COVID-19, in an article in Allegra Lab titled ‘On Being Voices of Prudence in Times of a Pandemic.’ Beyer discusses the role and methods of public anthropology in this time of rapid, often overwhelming and conflicting scientific response. She further lists resources for professors and researchers of anthropology, as well as virtual spaces for professionalization.
What do we call COVID-19 and why does it matter? Hugh Gusterson demonstrates that name usage is not arbitrary but rather constructed and culturally situated, through analysis of historical crisis naming. His article in Sapiens is titled ‘What’s wrong with “the Chinese virus”?’
In ‘What Ebola Taught Me About Coronavirus: Panic Will Get Us Nowhere,’ featured in the Guardian, Dr Jonah Lipton parallels current COVID-19 mitigation efforts to his field experience in 2014 Sierra Leone, during the Ebola outbreak. By taking a pragmatic approach focused on the next day, he observes, the people of Freetown acquired balance and achieved agency of their circumstances, transcending, without ignoring, the global efforts of containing the spread of the disease.
In ‘Anti-Capitalist Politics in the Time of Covid-19,’ published on Jacobin, David Harvey examines the relationship between extended neoliberal policies and harder social and economic impact of the virus. Drawing on economic, social and environmental Marxist traditions, he asks questions such as projections on the looming crisis, the future of consumerism and the possible role of global and national politics in maintaining a capitalist regime.
Our very own Professor Helaine Silverman is tracing the historical roots of contemporary COVID-19 quarantine measures to the 1665 Eyam plague mitigation efforts in this fascinating PowerPoint presentation. Through historical documents and archeological evidence, she tells the story of the 14-month outbreak which claimed almost 1/3 of the population in this English village and the harsh measures its inhabitants took to keep themselves and the rest of the region safe.
Last but not least, members of the Evolutionary Immunology and Genomics Lab, headed by Illinois Anthropology Assistant Professor Jessica F Brinkworth have put together a comprehensive list of sources in order to address myths and facts about COVID-19. Check them out!