The Anthropological Gaze – Blogging on Corona and Its Repercussions

May 19, 2020

The impact of the corona pandemic can be felt everywhere: it has affected nature, social life, the economy – and even our language. For in the search for the right words to capture the global outbreak, we turn to the same metaphors again and again: the crisis acts like a “microscope” or a “developing bath”, and sometimes it is even given the attributes of an “accelerant”. This imagery is meant to convey one thing: since the emergence of this virus, something is becoming visible that was previously less obvious. But what exactly is that something? How has the virus changed our view of the world and what is it that we suddenly see so clearly? Anthropologists are experts at answering just such questions. For their research makes them exceptionally good at looking closely at society and precisely identifying what they have seen. In the two blogs of the MPI numerous texts have been posted during the past weeks with reflections on the current crisis. And new posts continue to be written.

Chris Hann was the first to tackle the topic in his REALEURASIA blog: on 30 March, as the virus was spreading rapidly throughout Europe, he wrote about “The Corona Silk Road and the Welfare State”, examining how the influence of China has increased since the start of the outbreak. Many posts soon followed on matters such as the shortcomings of the German welfare state, the situation of Syrian seasonal labourers in Turkey, and the instrumentalization of the crisis to oppress minorities in India. And Thomas Hylland Eriksen, external scientific member of the MPI, offers a Norwegian perspective on the distinctive strategy for managing COVID-19 that is being followed in neighbouring Sweden. The blog is being updated regularly.

Moving from Eurasia to Africa, the blog  Integration and Conflict along the Upper Guinea Coast managed by Jacqueline Knörr has likewise published a text on the pandemic. In “Waiting for COVID-19 in Makeni” Susan Shepler describes how the corona crisis is affecting people in Sierra Leone, a country that just a few years ago had to deal with the Ebola epidemic. Here, too, further posts on the topic are planned.

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