Week 11 readings

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    Anna Wakita

    Reading “Introduction” from Priscilla Wald’s Contagious: Cultures, Carriers and Outbreak Narratives added a new layer of meaning to the narratives that have been going on with COVID-19. As epidemiologists and media had taken up stories from the past during the SARS outbreak, so are we again today with the novel corona virus. Wald sheds an important light when discussing the emergence of outbreak narratives: that the origins of these places are an “expression of poverty”. As we discussed in class this week, I can see the exacerbation of societal boundary lines, the rapid plunge from “model minority” back to the “yellow peril”, the emphasis on shunning the Other of society, as if that alone would keep the outbreak at bay. The idea of Mattingly’s structural competence would play a big role for each person in understanding and debunking the myths of outbreak narratives, in which we may understand the role of politics, SES, environment, etc. in how the virus spreads.
    I also saw Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” as a possible metaphor for the practicing of misunderstood social distancing—the idea that as long as you only interact with those who have been through the quarantine, then all are safe to keep hanging out. While to some extent this may be true (as in the first 6 months of peace), eventually there is enough spread of the virus that the few minutes someone stood in the grocery store, the short visit to another friend, is all that is needed to infect the entire group (thus the arrival of the Red Death).

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