Viral Loads

Anthropologies of urgency in the time of COVID-19

Edited by Lenore Manderson, Nancy J. Burke, and Ayo Wahlberg


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Drawing upon the empirical scholarship and research expertise of contributors from all settled continents and from diverse life settings and economies, Viral Loads illustrates how the COVID-19 pandemic, and responses to it, lay bare and load onto people’s lived realities in countries around the world.

A crosscutting theme pertains to how social unevenness and gross economic disparities are shaping global and local responses to the pandemic, and illustrate the effects of both the virus and efforts to contain it in ways that amplify these inequalities. At the same time, the contributions highlight the nature of contemporary social life, including virtual communication, the nature of communities, neoliberalism and contemporary political economies, and the shifting nature of nation states and the role of government. Over half of the world’s population has been affected by restrictions of movement, with physical distancing requirements and self-isolation recommendations impacting profoundly on everyday life but also on the economy, resulting also, in turn, with dramatic shifts in the economy and in mass unemployment.

By reflecting on how the pandemic has interrupted daily lives, state infrastructures and healthcare systems, the contributing authors in this volume mobilise anthropological theories and concepts to locate the pandemic in a highly connected and exceedingly unequal world. The book is ambitious in its scope – spanning the entire globe – and daring in its insistence that medical anthropology must be a part of the growing calls to build a new world.

Lenore Manderson is Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Medical Anthropology in the School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

Nancy J. Burke is Professor of Public Health and Anthropology and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Endowed Chair, University of California, Merced.

Ayo Wahlberg is Professor at the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen.

List of figures
List of tables
Notes on contributors

1. Introduction. Stratified livability and pandemic effects 
Ayo Wahlberg, Nancy J. Burke and Lenore Manderson

I     The power of the state
2. Care in the time of COVID-19: surveillance, creativity, and sociolismo in Cuba 
Nancy J. Burke
3. Militarising the pandemic: lockdown in South Africa 
Lenore Manderson and Susan Levine
4. Rights, responsibilities, and revelations: COVID-19 conspiracy theories and the state 
Elisa J. Sobo and Elżbieta Drążkiewicz

II    Exclusion and blame
5. The 2020 Los Angeles uprisings: fighting for black lives in the midst of COVID-19 
Hanna Garth
6. The biopolitics of COVID-19 in the UK: racism, nationalism and the afterlife of colonialism 
 Jennie Gamlin, Sahra Gibbon, and Melania Calestani  
7. The Shroud Stealers: Coronavirus and the viral vagility of prejudice 
Aditya Bharawaj
8. Unprecedented times? Romanian Roma and discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic 
Cristina A. Pop
9. Turkey’s Diyanet and political Islam during the pandemic 
 Oğuz Alyanak
10. Citizen vector: scapegoating within communal boundaries in Senegal during the COVID-19 pandemic 
Ato Kwamena Onoma  

III  Unequal burdens
11. Pandemic policy responses and embodied realities among ‘waste-pickers’ in India 
Surekha Garimella, Shrutika Murthy, Lana Whittaker and Rachel Tolhurst
12. The amplification effect: impacts of COVID-19 on sexual and reproductive health and rights in Indonesia 
Linda Rae Bennett and Setiyani Marta Dewi
13. Vulnerabilities within and beyond the pandemic: disability in Brazil 
Claudia Fonseca and Soraya Fleischer
14. ‘You are putting my health in danger’: genes, diets and bioethics under COVID-19 in Mexico 
Abril Saldaña-Tejeda
15. Scarcity and resilience during Covid-19: invisible lives of adolescents and youth in urban slums in Dhaka City, Bangladesh 
Sabina Faiz Rashid, Selima Kabir, Kim Ozano, Sally Theobald, Bachera Aktar and Aisha Siddika  

IV  The reach of care
16. Making do: COVID-19 and the improvisation of care in the UK and US 
Ellen Block and Cecilia Vindrola-Padros
17. Carescapes unsettled: COVID-19 and the reworking of ‘stable illnesses’ in welfare state Denmark 
Sofie Rosenlund Lau, Marie Kofod Svensson, Natasja Kingod, and Ayo Wahlberg
18. Care within or out of reach: fantasies of care and connectivity in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic 
Earvin Charles Cabalquinto and Tanja Ahlin
19. Pandemic times in a WhatsApp-ed nation: gender ideologies in India during COVID-19 
Haripriya Narasimhan, Mahati Chittem, and Pooja Purang
20. Purity’s dangers at the interstices of religion and public health 
Tsipy Ivry and Sarah Segal-Katz  

V  Lessons for a future
21. Fracturing the pandemic: the logic of separation and infectious disease in Tanzania 
Rebecca Marsland
22. Living together in precarious times: COVID-19 in the Philippines 
Gideon Lasco  
23. Local emergence and future preparedness in Italy 
Chiara Bodini and Ivo Quaranta


Format: Paperback

Size: 234 × 156 mm

468 Pages

20 B&W illustrations

Copyright: © 2021

ISBN: 9781800080249

Publication: September 20, 2021

Series: Embodying Inequalities: Perspectives from Medical Anthropology

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