Housing and Health: The Dimensions of Isolation. (Final Blog, 1499 words)

Throughout this year, I experienced what were largely critical, but ultimately indulgent, viewings of celebrity house tours on YouTube. As I was watching Hillary Duff give a tour of her family home, she motioned to her “quarantine hangspace”: a specific social area beside her private pool, with four chairs spaced two meters apart for her friends. It felt oddly dystopian, as I was also watching from my own “quarantine hangspace”: namely my bed-turned-desk. This causes one to ask: how else are people experiencing lockdown?

By applying Alexander and Bruun’s (2018) analysis of moral economies of global housing on top of the UK’s lockdown, we can uncover the dimensions of isolation in relation to kinship (relationships), citizenship, and embodied social inequalities. As a result, I reflect on the importance of redefining the domain of the “home” by including it into the political discussion of national health.

Housing, Health, and Politics: a History:

In anthropology, a moral economy was originally used as a comparative metaphor for the production, distribution, circulation, and use of morals within a social space (Fassin, 2009:37). However, Palomera and Vetta argue that the moral economy must be understood as a global object within the architecture of structural inequalities. In other words, the specific landscapes in which social norms and practices process structural inequalities is what should be referred to as moral economies (2016: 414). Consequently, there is no single moral economy- there are multiple overlapping ones.

Alexander and Bruun expands this concept of multiple moral economies as a heuristic device for assessing how people grapple with their housing rights in the face of political-economic institutions and processes (2018:130). Their conclusions included:

  • Moral economies exist in dynamic multiplicity and can rival or enhance each other (Das and Walton, 2015).
  • Since citizens can feel betrayal in response to state-like actors, there is no singular authority of the state. State-like actors can include many things including mortgage lenders or community movements and members.

After WW2, political economies globally surfaced and could be understood as the “social contract” between capital, labour, and the state; systemic state interventions were referred to as “welfare states” (Esping-Andersen, 1990). This understanding assumed a hierarchical and binary sense of the state and the citizen- which omitted the existence of multiple state-like actors.

But how does a material home be involved with political economies? Globally, housing complexes were created to condition certain types of communities. Houses were formed as nuclear family units, placed within social infrastructures and communal spaces (shops, childcare facilities, parks, etc) and emerged out of specific histories (Alexander and Bruun, 2018:125). For example, Israel used public housing to mould a nation state (Kalluss and Law Yone, 2002) and early Soviet collective living guaranteed laundry and childcare facilities to decrease domestic labour by women (Buchli, 1999).

By the late 1970s, austerity, financialisaton, and neoliberalism developed private home ownership- which changed the dimensions of the state and market. Under Thatcher, the “right to a home” was transformed into the 1980 Right to Buy act. USA Subprime loans reinforced the racialised class gap as low-income non-whites continued to live in insecure housing. Whilst the conditions for accessing adequate housing has become more marginal and unrealistic, gentrification expanded and became more violent as ethnic-minority communities’ housing was destroyed, replaced, and resold. Gentrification makes demands for adequate housing volatile, as it is results in destroyed homes and displacement of residents (Alexander and Bruun, 2018:127).

As a result, access to housing is as complex as it is exclusionary. For example, the variety of dimensions to what is considered “public housing” points to focusing on how access, redistribution, and maintenance of housing or public goods depends on legal and proprietorial contexts. Considering this, the home can be identified as an artefact of overlapping multiple economic, moral and political domains with unique historical backgrounds.

Dimensions of Isolation:

Citizenship:

Alexander and Bruun note that a prevalent dimension of adequate housing is “security”- which can appear in many forms (financial, environmental, etc). The need for security is core to the moral economies of housing (2018:130). Graeber interestingly notes that personal debt has become a contemporary way of defining (2010). This caused me to think about the mass evictions across the covid-19 pandemic in both the UK and the USA. Mathew Desmond, founder of the first national eviction database ‘The Eviction Lab’ for the States, powerfully talks about the home as a “vaccine”. This has got me wondering- in our redefinition of “housing”, should we also include the condition for permanency? Since April-November 2020, 90,063 people in the UK has either been threatened with, or are experiencing, homelessness. Like the USA, the UK’s “Everyone In” scheme was aimed to stop evictions based on pandemic related reasons. However, Desmond rightfully critiques this, as “pandemic related reasons” is extremely broad, isolation has proven how inter-connected everything is. For instance, the UK scheme does not cover those who are unable to pay rent since March, despite financial schemes during covid-19, including furlough, excluding three million taxpayers, in just May-June 2020.

Community:

The “public-private” bourgeois distinction reduces the public sphere to one of politics, and the private sphere to social relationships (Davidoff and Hall, 2002 [1982]: xv). However, housing creates specific kinds of citizens (and populations) through the clash of social relationships and domains of law, politics, and economics. The home is the meeting point of multiple actors and spheres- both real and imagined. Houses behave as conduits of political and economic relations, and as means for engaging with communities and local actors.
Two separate circles.

I saw this in action by observing how isolation expanded our kinship networks, as we engaged with political actors (the government) and community members (our neighbours) from our homes.  Every Thursday at 8pm during the UK’s first lockdown, citizens clapped for the work of frontline workers: including carers and NHS staff. My mother would always run to the balcony when she saw the clock strike eight. During a time of isolation, we extended our homes with our neighbours and created new forms of relations. Citizens engaged with their homes as a place to meet with the ‘public sphere’: a domain to assert support for free public healthcare by the state. On 28th May, the ‘Boo for Boris’ campaign emerged out of disagreement in Boris Johnson’s response to the Dominic Cummings Scandal- criticising state actors for their lax obedience to national lockdown rules. Through this lockdown ritual, I could see how the house stood as a nexus of multiple moral economies, and citizens express their shifting relationship with multiple state actors.

Social Inequalities – Is lockdown safe?

Understanding the home as a place that brings different people together (Douglas, 1991) demonstrates how the material design of modern living can contribute to the constitution of social identities (Miller, 2001) or cultural warfare (Lofgren, 2003[1984]) as normative gendered roles are recaptured in its heteronormative and modernity design (Attwood, 2010; Madigan et al., 1990). As a result, people advance their engagement with their citizenship (Alexander and Bruun, 2018:129).

The Institute of Labor Economics note that independent survey data in March-April show that UK and US women are more likely to lose their job, and less likely to be able to work from home than men ( Adams-Prassl et al, 2020). As well as that, women are significantly more likely to be responsible for childcare. Etheridge and Spantig from the University of Essex note that this contributes to women’s significant mental health decline (2020). The Health Foundation notes that ethnic minorities in London are disproportionately more likely to be key workers, therefore being at higher risk to infection and unable to isolate. From these examples, we can see how being able to work from home directly effects health- the home becomes an extension of the “private sphere” and exacerbates social inequalities.

Domestic abuse victims and activists also call attention to the harms of lockdown. The New York Times noted at least 34 deaths during March to May from domestic abuse, observing that the pandemic plan in March had no mention of domestic abuse. Labour MP Jess Phillips told NYT that there is no defined government strategy, and calls to action- such as domestic abuse commissioner Nicole Jacobs’ appeal for emergency funding- were ignored. Travel restrictions, court delays, and strained domestic abuse services lead to victims having no safety network away from their abusers. Therefore, I find the house becomes a threat to individual safety and points to how domestic abuse victims become expendable under national lockdown policy.

Redefining Home:

By including multiple state actors, maybe the government’s individualistic narrative of “Stay Home, Save Lives” begins to disintegrate. By targeting government auxiliaries, the burden of health is not just on the citizen, and “the state” becomes less abstract. Instead, the home becomes a place for us to reconstruct our citizenship, and observe the materiality of a house as an extension of political, social, and economical domains. By expanding adequate housing to including health, we can begin to prevent the risks towards mental and physical health witnessed during the UK lockdown by recognising how social inequalities take shape. Likewise, the “citizen” also becomes less abstract: socio-cultural factors such as class and race are included and therefore challenges blanket non-tailored guidance for health solutions.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cholera and Politics (part 1)

Let’s look at cholera epidemics in Peru and Zimbabwe and what this can tell us about controlling epidemics and how politics impacts this.

Firstly, at the start of the Zimbabwean epidemic, suppression of information on cases and lack of capacity to identify them through limited testing was an issue (Chigudu, 2020). The health system in Zimbabwe at the beginning of the outbreak in August 2008 didn’t have an effective way to detect cases. This meant there was initially no way to disrupt it and provide timely treatment for the disease. The government refused to acknowledge the outbreak as a ‘disaster’ and restricted aid organisations operations and this had severe consequences. It was the military that blocked information in the first six weeks therefore it was only after this that epidemiological information emerged and the spread and extent of cholera were able to be tracked for the first time (Chigudu, 2020). It was reported that the state was reluctant for the UN agencies to come to the country in any way and see the crisis.

Contamination is a key factor in the spread of polio as it’s a waterborne disease. This is a factor in the outbreak in Peru and in Zimbabwe.

The failure of Zimbabwe’s water reticulation systems helped cholera spread. The intermittent flow of water was an issue in both countries – specifically in the municipal water systems in Peru (Cueto, 2003). This issue with the intermittent flow in a water system is this: in a pressurised system with consistent flow, the biofilm of microbes that form in all bodies of water in a pipe system is stabilised and adheres to the surface of the pipe. However, this doesn’t happen when there is interrupted flow, periods of stasis followed by upsurges of turbulent flow (Chigudu, 2020). This results in the biofilm being on the surface of the water and contaminating water that leaves the system – a key issue with a bad water supply. In Zimbabwe, this biofilm was found to contain the cholera pathogen cholera vibrios.

I want to expand upon the notion of water systems and their epidemic-accelerating potential in my next blog post…

So, keep reading!

 

 

Bibliography:

Chigudu, S. (2020) The Political Life of an Epidemic: Cholera, Crisis and Citizenship in Zimbabwe. 1st edn. Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/9781108773928.

Cueto, M. (2003) Disease in the History of Modern Latin America: From Malaria to AIDS. Edited by D. Armus. Duke University Press. doi: 10.1215/9780822384342.

 

HIV vs SARS-CoV-2

Let’s talk about the HIV/AIDS vs the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Both are ongoing and have some striking similarities between them although the viruses themselves (although both cases of zoonoses) are quite different and so are, accordingly, their pandemics.

Before I expand on the seminaries and what we can learn from both of these cases, let’s look at the key statistics as a starting point for comparison.

75.7 million people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic in the early 1980s and 32.7 million have died. Currently, we have had over 134 million cases of SARS-CoV-2 and 2.9 million deaths. The difference in transmissibility here is clear – especially considering that the COVID-19 pandemic is just over a year ago and it has nearly double the number of HIV cases.

The mortality rates are also staggeringly different. HIV had a 50% mortality rate in the US in the early 80s before any treatments were developed, this is compared to only 0.02% for SARS-Cov-2 which is hopefully decreasing after the global rollout of vaccinations.

So, what are the similarities?

 

Number One:

Government public health responses

Both situations noted a lack of sufficient national leadership and even denial. President Trump stated that the pandemic is “going to disappear” in February, then assured the public that “[they] have it totally under control”.

Jair Bolsonaro described the threat of COVID-19 as a “fantasy” created by the media saying, “Brazilians never catch anything.” and has actively avoided mask-wearing (Phillips, 2020).

In 1982 AIDS was initially named gay-related immune deficiency (or GRID) which nods the miseducation around who HIV could infect. Ronald Reagan never mentioned the virus by name during his whole presidency and his press secretary called it the “gay plague” as he joked in a press conference in 1982 (Lopez, 2015).

In the UK Margaret Thatcher fought against her government when coordinating an AIDS awareness campaign, not wanting to put the phrase ”risky sex” in it fearing that it would encourage young people into risky sexual practices (BBC News, 2021).

 

Number Two:

Both situations have seen the need for specific strategies in different areas as the viruses have disproportionate effects on different communities.

Gay and bisexual men, African Americans, and Latinos are and remain disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS in the U.S.Black people represent approximately 13% of the U.S. population but accounted for 43% of new HIV infections in 2017 (CDC, 2018). In the UK the is, on average, 21 more Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 people in 20% of the most deprived neighbourhoods compared to the least deprived (Covid Recovery Commission, 2021)

 

Number Three:

Human behaviour plays an important role in both these virus’s transmission and considerable chances in behaviour were required in public health campaigns. Humans are incredibly social beings yet the need for social distancing and lockdowns meant we had to use virtual means of socialising. Virtual socialising has been proved to increase wellbeing as well as internet access having significant cognitive benefits, especially in pandemic times (Kearns and Whitley, 2019).

Reducing the key routes of HIV transmission such as breastfeeding, sexual intercourse and needle use called for changes in behaviour. Public health campaigns encouraging condom use demanded a change in people’s sexual habits (GOV.UK, 2017). There was a new need for needle exchanges to stop transmission in intravenous drug users. Both these pandemics have demanded big changes in human behaviour in order to control their outbreaks.

Bibliography:

BBC News (2021) ‘Aids campaign: Thatcher “fought against risky sex warnings”’, 8 February. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-55973726 (Accessed: 9 April 2021).

CDC (2018) HIV and African American People | Race/Ethnicity | HIV by Group | HIV/AIDS | CDC. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/racialethnic/africanamericans/index.html (Accessed: 9 April 2021).

Covid Recovery Commission (2021) ‘Levelling up communities’. Available at: http://covidrecoverycommission.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Levelling-up-communities.pdf.

GOV.UK (2017) Campaign to protect young people from STIs by using condoms, GOV.UK. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/campaign-to-protect-young-people-from-stis-by-using-condoms (Accessed: 9 April 2021).

Kearns, A. and Whitley, E. (2019) ‘Associations of internet access with social integration, wellbeing and physical activity among adults in deprived communities: evidence from a household survey’, BMC Public Health, 19(1), p. 860. doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-7199-x.

Lopez, G. (2015) The Reagan administration’s unbelievable response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Vox. Available at: https://www.vox.com/2015/12/1/9828348/ronald-reagan-hiv-aids (Accessed: 9 April 2021).

Phillips, T. (2020) Jair Bolsonaro claims Brazilians ‘never catch anything’ as Covid-19 cases rise, the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/mar/27/jair-bolsonaro-claims-brazilians-never-catch-anything-as-covid-19-cases-rise (Accessed: 9 April 2021).

Cholera continued… (part 2)

In my last post, I considered how politics affected the outbreak of cholera in Peru and Zimbabwe, especially at the beginning of these epidemics (Cueto, 2003; Chigudu, 2020).

I then talked about water contamination and the dangers of biofilm in the context of bad water systems with intermittent flow.

I want to continue on that focus on water as a way of discussing these cholera epidemics as water is a hugely important player in these case studies; cholera is a waterborne pathogen.

The role that sewage plays in water provision is important. In Zimbabwe, the pipes were leaking at an inordinately high rate as they were old (the case study is based in Harare). This was also true of the sewage system and resulted in human waste leaking into groundwater and subsequently the water supply due to the proximity of the two systems – an infrastructural flaw (Chigudu, 2020).

Finally, in Zimbabwe, politics also plays a role in water provision and its shortfalls as the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) were introduced (a wholly-owned government entity) in 2000 to facilitate development through improved water infrastructure. However, due to hyperinflation, underinvestment and embezzlement, ZINWA failed to purchase enough of the chemicals required to make water safe to drink at its treatment centres. This led to such desperation to deliver water into the system in 2008 that initial water treatment was bypassed leading to contaminated water provision.

Even after death rates from Peru’s cholera epidemic were lower than expected after an effort to rapidly treat patients in the early stages of their symptoms, the epidemic didn’t result in an improvement of the country’s water and sewage problems. Even if epidemics highlight infrastructural problems and are driven by them, it doesn’t mean that there will be a significant infrastructural improvement as a result of an epidemic. Peru’s President Fujimori was additionally concerned that the costs of a big public sanitation campaign to alleviate the cholera crisis would be too expensive. This was alongside concern that even acknowledging the extent of the crisis would see his popularity sink – there was no political imperative to act swiftly.

 

Bibliography:

Chigudu, S. (2020) The Political Life of an Epidemic: Cholera, Crisis and Citizenship in Zimbabwe. 1st edn. Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/9781108773928.

Cueto, M. (2003) Disease in the History of Modern Latin America: From Malaria to AIDS. Edited by D. Armus. Duke University Press. doi: 10.1215/9780822384342.

 

About ‘expertise’…

Talking about the theme of this week, “politics, pandemics and expertise” requires an interdisciplinary approach from the get-go.

Approaching pandemics and their policies were tackled extremely well in reading the social and political lives of zoonotic disease models (Leach and Scoones, 2013).

Poignantly they stated how models (in this context, mainly epidemiological models) should be understood as having political and social lives alongside their typically perceived linear entity.  For example, for the understanding and modelling the avian H5H1 spread in Thailand a 2005 Nature paper Strategies for containing an emerging influenza pandemic in Southeast Asia (Ferguson et al., 2005) was widely referenced and used to inform policy due to its avian flu modelling and suggestions on how to eliminate a nascent pandemic informed Thai and WHO policy. The authors argued that the “[believed] that [their] conclusions are valid for other parts of Southeast Asia’ yet it was widely based on predictions as there was limited statistical data on past pandemics than expected. This highlighted how even if the shortfalls of models are acknowledged the uncertainty, ambiguity and ignorance that they could contain can have a huge influence on their predictions. A different paper looked at the same H5N1 spread based on different data and had different recommendations. We must understand that there is not always concordance with academic writing and predictions – especially when the datasets are available are limited. One of these papers used for statistical predictions in Thailand turned out to be very accurate for predicting the course of the epidemic in Vietnam instead (Leach and Scoones, 2013).

If we consider the politics part of this week, the phrase “performative politics” was a new and interesting one to me. Additionally, the idea of politics of (in)security; seeking to govern risk by everyday practises that pre-empt and imagine extreme events. An interesting and important practice. Looking at a poignant example of politics and health interfering and expertise such a South African President Mbeki’s rejection of the use of AZT in preventing HIV linear transmission from mother to child (Weinel, 2007).

There was a small maverick group of academics (previously acclaimed) who published many papers about the toxicity of AZT. These were the researchers that Mbeki and his health secretary cited when justifying their decisions. It shows how dangerous and biased leaders can be if they only listen to and agree with one side of the argument; how Mbeki’s level of expertise in the area changed South Africa’s policy. Furthermore, we can see how incorporating inexperienced scientific advisors as seen here can lead to issues as literature alone can be insufficient to guide policy (as mentioned at the beginning of this post).

 

Biography:

Ferguson, N. M. et al. (2005) ‘Strategies for containing an emerging influenza pandemic in Southeast Asia’, Nature, 437(7056), pp. 209–214. doi: 10.1038/nature04017.

Leach, M. and Scoones, I. (2013) ‘The social and political lives of zoonotic disease models: Narratives, science and policy’, Social Science & Medicine, 88, pp. 10–17. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.03.017.

Weinel, M. (2007) ‘Primary source knowledge and technical decision-making: Mbeki and the AZT debate’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 38(4), pp. 748–760. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsa.2007.09.010.

Week 4: Politics, pandemics and expertise

Who are we to believe and how are we to know? 

Let us consider the question of expertise, one that arises often during pandemic turmoil. Who has the authority on what we should do and how we should understand COVID? The term “lead by science” seemed recurrent in government rhetoric, this notion of sacrosanct science is often used to legitimise decisions that are essentially political. The notion of there being a singular objective scientific answer to a pandemic is itself fallacy; there will always be plural approaches and ideas — an economist will have a different stance to an epidemiologist and different again will be the understandings of an anthropologist. As such, a claim to technical expertise is a claim to hegemony over narratives. 

Beyond this, lay-science presents contestation to top down dissemination of scientific understandings. Considering Allen Abramson’s suggestion of populist anti-intellectualism and the rational populist approach made me think about the ways in which social media will have shaped discourse and ‘grassroots’ science around covid. It would be easy to play into the post-truth frenzy of fake news as responsible for certain rejections and conspiracies. But equally things like covid ‘life hacks’, sharing techniques and information about covid safety people have worked out for themselves, occurs online (things like how to make your own masks). On instagram, I have learnt about and shared symptoms that are not listed in healthcare guidelines; when I had Covid my only common symptoms were fatigue and tight chest, I also had a stabbing pain around my heart and became very dehydrated. I can know that covid was responsible for these symptoms, not through official healthcare information, but through interacting with people online who had had the same experience. Things like rumour roundups may help us conjure better understandings from multiple sources and a shared consciousness than models used for policy making that may simply uphold and legitimise a certain approach to modelling above local understandings, as Dahlia Iskander suggests. 

Week 3: The role of maps, data science and technology

If we consider historic expressions of epidemiology and spacial data analysis, systems of mapping play a large role in our conceptions of pandemics. Cartography, although widely used as in navigation and planing, only entered as a tool for the study of disease during the outbreak of cholera in 1832. The first known geo-spacial map of disease depicted the route of cholera’s spread from India to north America and Britain. By the 1830s the disease was global, but more local mapping systems where developed to illustrate regional and hotspot epidemiology. Through such mapping it soon became evident that there were comparisons to be made between level of infection and living conditions those areas, painting a picture of people and places most effected by the disease. This new found way of looking at data suggested to scientists how they might mitigate effects through environmental change even if the disease itself was not understood. Unfortunately, scientific predispositions meant that theories emerging from mapping where not always acknowledged or accurate in their assumptions; miasma for a long time was believed to be the method of transmission for the disease, given the clustering in cities and areas with poor sanitation. Although useful, correlations can be falsely interpreted in response to data visualisations. However, it was in fact the disease mapping of John Snow that lead to a productive deduction that cholera was waterborne. He collected and visualised data to show clustering of deaths from the disease around a particular water pump in Soho. Sadly Snow’s theory only came into mainstream public consciousness between 1860 and 1900, due to vested interests in selling cheap water and stubbornness in the scientific establishment. Equally despite knowing the cause of transmission, Cholera still exists as a cause of death today, illustrating that effective mapping and understandings of transmission does not always lead to complete infrastructural reform.

Today, GIS is extensively used to map disease and formulate epidemiological theories. Obviously the scale of data sets available and the processing power of the computers that deal with these data now are vastly greater than those at the outset of disease data mapping. The internet allows for realtime updates as well as a democratisation of mapping processes and access (through COVID-19 dashboards etc), data gathering and sharing is part of our daily lives and becomes somewhat more evident and important within the context of a pandemic. Consider the NHS track and trace app, never before has there been the ability and impetus to collect such detailed and interconnectivle information on a disease as it spreads. The participatory mode of this data collection is key but also raises questions of data protection and some are concerned by the normalisation of institutional tracking. Although now using the same geolocation systems as apple and android (involving a third party server), the UK government had initially aimed to create their own geolocation app that would not grant the same anonymity and data protection to users. Although to some allarmist, it is perhaps important too consider the socio-political facets that may be applied to data mapping now and in the future.

Data visualisation can be super useful but equally often requires a fair understanding of mapping processes to take effective measures and enact positive change. Equally aesthetic choices in the depiction of geographic epidemiology can effect the emotive ways in which they are to be interpreted 

Week 2: The bio-social dynamic of infectious disease in historical context.

By this point, none of us are strangers to the emotive and often divisive nature of a global pandemic. Back in March of 2020, I experienced my first taste of the logistical havoc it can reek and the narratives into which it can entwine. 

A State of emergency in the Philippines was declared by president Duterte whilst I was working on a permaculture farm in Palawan, very quickly the warm hospitality for which the Island is renowned become somewhat more suspicious. I was asked to leave the farm because, as a foreigner, my presence was making those in the village uncomfortable in the face of an internationally transmitted disease. The following week entailed a desperate hitchhike, hostel confinement, an army presence, a police-escorted convoy, two nights on an airport floor, Arroz Caldo and eventually an emergency extraction flight that returned me to Tokyo. In the case of the villagers who wanted me gone, I understand their apprehensions; I represented a threat as the disease was only likely to be transmitted across the island from the cities by travellers coming from abroad or island hopping. I was told by our neighbour that islanders were unlikely to travel beyond a 10 mile radius of their village, if ever. Despite this, many locals were still very helpful in aiding travellers return home; overnight tourist boards turned emergency contact points, taxi drivers became official evacuation staff and food for those in containment was supplied. Whilst to me the threat of COVID was not so much the risk of infection but the prospect of being confined to an isolated town under military presence, whilst running out of money and missing the start of term, to locals it was a case of loosing the tourist industry and their livelihoods by eliminating the threat that travellers posed to an area lacking sufficient healthcare infrastructure. Divergent conceptions of covid, even in its early stages, prompt us to think about the social relations of epidemiology and how we may each attempt to comprehend covid. 

As COVID-19 spread globally both physically and conceptually, I found myself struggling to know which angle to take and which story to believe. Narratives were coloured with unwarranted and destructive suspicions surrounding the new virus. The regressive othering that often accompanies infectious disease was once again given voice on the international stage, Trump declaring at the UN summate that the US was “waging war against the China virus”. It is not the first time we’ve seen such prejudices attached to the origins of a pandemic; Megan Vaughan spoke of a resurgence in primitivist conjectures and racist comparisons of animals and the hunger-gatherers of the Cameroon region during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. As John Sabaphathy noted, the dominant (often post- colonial) narratives of zoonotic diseases tend to ignore indigenous understandings of human-animal dynamics. Equally, in the US, stigmatisation of HIV and AIDS through association with the queer community and substance abuse, meant that it was under- researched and poorly understood. Those who have seen Dallas Buyer Club might recognise that those suffering resorted to more effective and less official means than those prescribed by healthcare experts.

Week 7: Same storm different boats: Health inequalities and infectious disease

The ways in which the disease is experienced and dealt with, and the ways in which information about it is disseminated, are dependent upon political and historical contexts, differing opinions and unequal relationships of power. As we’ve seen around the world, the state of a healthcare system, quality of housing, population density and travel routes, as well as the general health and nourishment of a populations can affect the way a disease takes hold. Past experiences of governance can effect how far a population will listen and respond to guidance, equally questions of freedom and privacy will have different answers in say Russia than they do in France. 

 

With mass-vaccination on the horizon, structural inequalities of world health care have been put into stark relief as the wealthiest nations leave only 2% of the initial approved doses available to the World Health Organisation’s Covax facility. The European Union and 7 external industrialised nations bought up 80% of the vaccines, the rest of the world left to scrimmage for the remaining 18%. (Heydarian, 2020) 

Covid disproportionately effects BAME people, the highest rates of infection and morbidity found in Black ethnic groups (and the lowest in white ethnic groups). This is not because there is a direct causation between ethnicity and covid; people of colour are no more susceptible to the virus and once obesity and comorbidity are taken into account there is no difference in probable chance of being admitted to intensive care or dying from the virus if you are black or white (Public Health England). In the UK, BAME populations are more likely to come into contact with COVID because they are more likely to live in urban and deprived areas, are more likely to be “key workers” in service industries who cannot stay home. A higher prevalence of diabetes and depression in lower income groups (within which BAME people are over-represented) increases your chance of dying from COVID, showing us the way in which a virus is not indiscriminate but plays into structural and racial inequalities, particularly when a government is slow to act.

Week 6: Living in lockdown

Working from home- recanting lives around the home 

  • merging of public and private 
  • Having to regulate work and life from home

From anthropological and social science perspective 

  • increase in cases in month of October 
  • U-turn be government 

“Be kind to yourself” – make good choices of self care

  • those suffering from domestic abuse
  • More confines space – no outside space
  • different view of hard infrastructure 
  • Political rationality linked with a specific apparatus on governmentality
    – the collective fantasy of society about what it means to be modern, through a subtle “poetics of infrastructure”
    – not only a technical function but a symbolic one
    – infrastructures are also things that exist apart from their purely technical functioning and that “need to be analysed as concrete semiotic and aesthetic vehicles oriented to addressees” (Larkin,2013)
  • Care of citizens through state provision of things like roads, electricity etc
    – visible/invisible- only become evident when they stop working 
  • Ocado- toilet paper
  • When is an infrastructure finished 
  • What are the boundaries of a household, how can we look at the built environment as staring point for a wider conversation about care, state and provision Moore broadly.
  • Material objects of our everyday lives have a humanity and political significance.
  • People as infrastructure- when the state cannot or doesn’t provide- people come in, importance not in knowing what the infrastructure is but where and how to act in it’s absence.
  • Informal networks of cares standing in for infrastructures 
  • Difficult for people living in urban areas  
  • Work, rest, friendships, caring responsibilities, the body, technology, out home, anxiety.
  • You feel like you should have so much time, as there’s no commute, no at work so anytime can be work… but somehow time seem Moree evasive as there’s no punctuation or boundaries