Category: COVID-19: Views from the Field

Complicating Disability: On the Invisibilization of Chronic Illness throughout History

At the time of writing, the world is entering the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the highly contagious Omicron variant of the virus is causing cases to surge in numerous countries, media and public health narratives have been dominated by speculation that the virus appears to cause less severe illness and fewer deaths, and that this is the natural trajectory of a pandemic nearing its end: a virus continues to mutate and gradually evolves to be more transmissible and less virulent, eventually becoming endemic and mundane. Much of the general public has taken up the rhetoric of public health agencies, which assert that we should be encouraged by the fact that severe illness and death from the virus almost exclusively occur in the unvaccinated and those with pre-existing conditions (Dickinson 2022; Mateus and Murray 2022; Ominous 2022). This is necropolitics: society has designated it acceptable for certain groups of people to die (Mbembe 2019). (read more...)

Co-signature Event Context: Toward a Participatory Electronic Health Record

The days of doctors scratching illegible notes in charts fated to hide in obscure files never read by another soul is long gone. Over the last two decades, paper charts have nearly disappeared as the evolution of the electronic health record (EHR) has come to dominate the healthcare environment not only in the US, but globally. The health record performs multiple types of labor. It serves to facilitate communication in medical care or research; it is a legal document and a record to justify billing. A new diagnosis and billing code must make its first entry into the medical record accompanied by the signature of a clinician authorized to determine this diagnosis. After this initial entry, non-professional personnel may then use this diagnosis for any of the above purposes (communication, billing, legal). This blog post explores how developments like the patient portal of the EHR create new opportunities for interpretation, (read more...)

“I’m Not an Anti-Vaxxer, I Just Don’t Want This Vaccine”: Understanding Vaccine Hesitancy among Pregnant Women

“The world isn’t made up of good people and death eaters.” -JK Rowling The world isn’t made up of people who choose to vaccinate and those who are vehemently opposed. With the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, understanding has changed rapidly. With the development of three effective vaccinations, there has emerged a group of people that exhibit what has been dubbed “vaccine hesitancy.” This is a relatively new phenomenon in terms of new vaccination–the uptake, for example, of the polio vaccination in the early 1950s, was more immediate and widespread. The Zika epidemic also provides an interesting contrast to the current situation as well. I use these examples simply as a foil to the current pandemic and draw a number of interesting similarities and differences. (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...)

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...)