Dirty looks, skewed remarks, deserted restaurants, bullied children, protests, ouster — this is the reality for many since the outbreak of Corona. Stigmatising the diseased or the afflicted or using the pandemic to ostracize a community is nothing new to humankind. It has an incredibly long history from the most recent Covid-19 outbreak to the medieval period’s panic over leprosy.
In every great pandemic that has affected mankind — ranging from smallpox, tuberculosis, Black Death, Spanish Flu, to the more recent HIV-AIDS — the stigmatising theme has been a true constant. In earlier times, the outbreaks were blamed on the “low” and the “immoral” class of people who had to be quarantined and removed as a threat to society.
The paradigm has now shifted and the “low” and “immoral” people are identified as outsiders, those on the fringes of society including foreigners, immigrants, racial minorities, and people of low socioeconomic status. It has now gone a step further and has enveloped even the caregivers and the essential health service providers.
When a new virus disease emerges, people rely on preexisting and competing cultural explanations of infectious diseases. Cultural and Medical Anthropologists have long been interested in identifying cultural interpretations of unfamiliar diseases during epidemics. The anthropology of outbreaks is conclusive: stigma and “othering” pose serious health hazards during epidemics. The human tendency to divide society into "us" and "others" when fear strikes becomes especially prevalent during infectious disease epidemics and leads people to physically distance themselves from perceived sources of transmission.
Will Covid-19 become a syndemic ultimately? How to prevent the society from reeling into the self-defeating tendency of enemy approach and othering its own people? Can we find Social determinants of health and hotspots? How effective communication can cut misinformation and facilitate compliance?
Anthropologists have many insights to share about their work in previous outbreak settings. We expectantly look forward to the deliberation of Dr. Vinay Srivastava, Director Anthropological Survey of India. One of the most leading Socio-cultural Anthropologist of our country will Deliver a Talk and speak to us on 27th May 2020 at 11 AM. You are cordially invited.
The human tendency to divide society into "us" and "others" when fear strikes becomes especially prevalent during infectious disease epidemics and leads people to physically distance themselves from perceived sources of transmission.