COVID-19, Current Issue

Anthropology in Emergencies: The Roles of Anthropologists during the COVID-19 Pandemic By Inayat Ali

From Inayat Ali:

When I drafted this article, the worldwide cases of COVID-19 were over 2 million and deaths around 135,000, as compared to the current statistics that are around 8.398 million and 450,000, respectively. The statistics can be tricky and questioned; however, there is no doubt that the pandemic has overwhelmed the entire world. Some countries have already faced the peak of the virus and relaxed preventive measures, while others are amidst the peak nowadays and expecting a rapid escalation, e.g., Pakistan. Yet others are fearing the second wave of infection, such as China.

During this almost 180-days-old pandemic, several interesting and provoking phenomena have happened, and many more are anticipated. For instance, symbolically, someone wore a mask to Goethe in Vienna, Austria. Another stimulating thing happened in Vienna: In the early days of the pandemic, one marijuana shop was converted into a mask shop, and in the mid of June 2020, the shop sells no masks, but snacks.

Screen Shot 2020-06-20 at 9.59.55 AM
Figure – 1 Salesman in White Dress Briefs Customers in Front of Newly established mask shop in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Author
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Figure – 2 Inner View of the Mask Shop in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Author
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Figure – 3 The Mask Shop Closes the Sell. Photo by Author
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Figure – 4 The Mask Shop Becomes A Snack Shop. Photo by Author

Furthermore, many rumors and conspiracy theories have been circulating about the virus in diverse settings. We have been experiencing disruptions in the economies, and witnessing politics at various places have surrounded the virus. Precisely, the pandemic has caused significant changes and overwhelming challenges for all of us: its impacts can be felt at a local, national, and global level, which are anticipated to last longer.

This intriguing context—which every day is becoming more complex—demonstrates an increasing need of all academic disciplines, including anthropology, to perform their unique functions. After revisiting the specific literature, I discuss what significant roles we as anthropologists can play to deal with this pandemic. I argue that owing to our unique academic orientation; we can perform distinct pivotal roles—e.g., researchers, mediators, trainers, and experts—in diverse contexts during these challenging times and after the pandemic winds down. Simultaneously, COVID-19 has challenged us and yet offered a terrific opportunity to develop an epidemic-emergency-oriented tool; hence, we can promptly contribute to deal with any overwhelming situation like this pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19, coronavirus, rumors, conspiracy theories, infodemic, masks, health emergency, pandemic, practicing anthropology, applied anthropology, medical anthropology, public anthropology

Look out for Ali’s full article and the rest of the Summer Issue coming out July 1, 2020.

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