PART 2: My COVID Reading List from March/April 2020

Where Care Meets Social Context

Starting with Adia Benton’s webinar that initiates thinking about ‘ (i) What kind of powers are granted in any kind of emergency; (ii) Needing to reimagine our international institutions; (iii) Needing to consider epidemiological and clinical concerns in the context of different social and economic realities; (iv) COVID-19 has revealed major structural weaknesses and risks within our health system; (v) We need family plans, not just community plans’.

A rich canon already exists for point 3, much of which you can introduce yourself to through the somatosphere. Taking Adia’s points as a way of organising concerns the learning point here, very familiar to any sociocultural anthropologist, is the classic point that how interventions are planned is not how they play out. Therefore, to ensure they play-out better and do not marginalise people or end up worsening a situation, the simple recognition of it helps to generate better policies or actions. As I noted in an article on the management of corvids, not covid, counterintuitive results can occur if you don’t have the sense to understand basic feedback. Critically, as Eben’s work points to, this better understanding – and thus better interventions – can only come from understanding viral ways of processing. Otherwise, things like quarantines can literally backfire, but also an epic litany of positive feedback occurs, such as people across the world chased deeper into poverty because they can’t access currency through work or due to the in-built racism within countries social and material infrastructure suffer higher mortality rates. Or as Starting with Paul Farmer notes it is Caregivers and the poor who die. Keep an eye out for this forthcoming book that promises to really unpack this.

In this vein, I also recommend Ian Scoones blog as an entry point into understanding how the sociotechnical and epistemological regimes that dominate disease management are part of this very problem. Scoones draws attention to the 3PS framework as one way to mitigate some of the shortfalls of these regimes; process (the way disease population dynamics work), pattern (the spatial spread of disease and the correlation with various factors) and participation (understanding disease dynamics from local people’s perspectives). Here is another article by him I also recently spotted.

Go back to Part 1