Tag: Covid-19

On the social nature of toilet paper

You would be forgiven for thinking that the first thing bought in a global crisis would be tinned, dried, and frozen foods; clean water; and medicines—things that enable the survival of you and your kin. Yet, when the number of COVID-19 cases in Australia hit 100 on March 10, 2020, it was the toilet paper aisles of supermarkets that were empty. Through what became the subject of memes depicting Australians sheltering from the ensuing pandemic wrapped only in toilet paper, and of men wearing lavish adornments of toilet paper rolls, daily bodily habits had hit center stage. (read more...)

Roundtable: “COVID-19: Views from the Field”

We’re wrapping up our five-part series, “COVID-19: Views from the Field,” with a pre-recorded roundtable. This roundtable brought our authors into conversation with each other, across continents and timezones, to discuss conducting—or not conducting—fieldwork in places not understood as COVID-19 “hotspots.” Check out the video here, and follow the links below to read the whole series, also available in the language of each field site. (read more...)

Abu Dhabi Soundmarks: Building Community in the Midst of the Pandemic, One Voice at a Time

Editor’s note:This post is the fifth in our five-part series “COVID-19: Views from the Field.” Click here to read an introduction written by series organizer Rebekah Ciribassi. Editor’s note: Click the links throughout the article to experience the soundscape of Abu Dhabi under COVID-19 In March 2020, I arrived in Abu Dhabi from the island of Sardinia, Italy, to shelter in place with family members, here. As I recently documented elsewhere, after the lockdown was imposed in Italy, the soundscape of that place, and especially the culture of talking, physical contact and making face-to-face music, changed significantly. (read more...)

A schizophrenic streak

In discussions on COVID-19, it has become a common trope that disciplines like anthropology are particularly relevant and fitting for writing about the pandemic. Indeed, the pandemic unearths many dormant questions about inequalities in public health care systems, uneven food distribution, anthropogenic effects on the environment, and more. Just as the virus spreads globally, so does it bring to the surface injustices across the globe: in the slums of Mumbai, in Northern Italian hospitals, in your own four walls. (read more...)

The Temporal Politics of Ethnography, Heritability, and Contagion in Tanzania During Covid-19

Editor’s note: This post is the fourth in our five-part series “COVID-19: Views from the Field.” Click here to read an introduction written by series organizer Rebekah Ciribassi. I have been living in Tanzania since March of 2018, conducting ethnographic fieldwork with Tanzanian families that have a genetically-inherited blood disorder called sickle cell disease. My interest in studying the socio-political life of this particular diagnosis in this particular place started in 2012, when I learned of a Pan-African bioscience movement, sited partly in Tanzania, to prioritize sickle cell disease research and care across the continent. I became curious about what it might mean anthropologically to shift the timescales of global health intervention from the immediacy of more traditionally-prioritized communicable diseases like HIV and malaria, toward the intergenerational transmission of a genetic condition. Almost two years of interviews and observation with families, activists, and healthcare providers had me thinking about the (read more...)

Suspension, Risk, Suspicion: Field dispatches from Pakistan under COVID-19

Editor’s note: This post is the third in our five-part series “COVID-19: Views from the Field.” Click here to read an introduction written by series organizer Rebekah Ciribassi. Since the start of the Coronavirus induced lockdowns in Pakistan in mid-March, I have had to cut short my ethnographic field-work in the country’s Anti-Terrorism Courts, and shelter in place in my family’s home in Lahore indefinitely, as Australia’s borders also closed to temporary visa holders. Yet long before the world fell apart, I had come to realize that as a brown, Muslim woman with a Pakistani passport (who also happened to be studying Pakistan), every stage of the PhD/academic life was doubly arduous. From acquiring a visa to get to Australia where my university is based while dealing with my family’s disapproval; applying for, getting visas and traveling to international conferences, to getting research ethics and fieldwork travel approvals, every little milestone required many times the effort that my peers had to put in. (read more...)

Crisis Redux, Viral Uncertainty, and Militarized Care: Coronavirus in the Aftermath of Bolivia’s Uncertain Coup

Editor’s note: This post is the second in our five-part series “COVID-19: Views from the Field.” Click here to read an introduction written by series organizer Rebekah Ciribassi. The COVID 19 crisis arrived in Bolivia just after carnaval. On February 22nd, colorful costumed confradías dancing to the rhythms of salay, caporales, morenadas, and chacareras blazed through the streets of Oruro, a gritty mining city that hosts Bolivia’s biggest carnaval celebration. The following Tuesday, Martes ch’alla, people around the country gathered with their families to ch’allar their homes, burning ceremonial tableaus and splashing beer on the ground as an offering to bring a year of good luck. Two weeks later to the day the first case of coronavirus in Bolivia was confirmed, initiating a cascade of escalating measures including the closure of international borders, curfews, and eventually a nation-wide quarantine with each household allowed to send one family member out for a few hours to buy food once a week, according to the number of their national ID. (read more...)

Cambodia in the time of COVID-19: Conceptions, perceptions, and approaches to the novel coronavirus

Editor’s note: This post is the first in our five-part series “COVID-19: Views from the Field.” Click here to read an introduction written by series organizer Rebekah Ciribassi. When I waved goodbye to my partner at Torino Caselle Airport in northern Italy on February 18th, 2020, I had no idea what was about to happen—people don’t tend to predict the eves of global pandemics. There were no particularly ominous signs to note, and I was heavily focused on the logistics of carrying out my PhD fieldwork in Cambodia.  My research focuses on seasonal variations of the use and consumption of traditional Khmer medicinal plants during maternity by rural women living in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia. My aim is to identify medicinal plants used during different stages of pregnancy, how these medicinal plants are prepared as (or paired with) foods, and what the perceived effects of these traditional food-medicines have on treating symptoms associated with different stages of maternity. In addition to this, I’m also interested in the contemporary role and trajectory of Traditional Khmer Medicine (TKM) within rural community settings and how such traditional knowledge is shared. The overarching goal of this research was to support botanical work being done by the National Herbarium of Cambodia at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, nutrition and dietary research by the NGO Helen Keller International, as well as expand the inter-disciplinary cultural research by the Center for Khmer Studies in my role as a senior research fellow. (read more...)