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Title‘To all the anti‐vaxxers out there…’: ethnography of the public controversy about vaccination in the time of COVID‐19
Author(s)Durand, Jean-Yves
Cunha, Manuela Ivone P. da
Issue date18-May-2020
JournalSocial Anthropology
Abstract(s)[Excerpt] Some 12 years after a previous research, in February 2020, at the start of extensive fieldwork on the state of the public controversy about vaccination in Portugal, France and California, travel became impossible, pro-vaccination conferences and anti-vaccination protests were tentatively postponed, then canceled. Participant observation and face-to-face interaction now have to be temporarily substituted by systematic internet attentiveness and remote interviews. But, while the epidemic hampers most social activities, it only reduces the number of arenas in which controversies can develop. Part of the energy that sustains them is reinvested in other means of intervention, namely online presence. Ethnographers have to mirror this migration with their techniques, while experiencing in their own lives the same changes and, to a variable extent, uncertainties affecting the people they accompany. With COVID-19, armchair anthropology reaches a whole new degree of participation and shared concerns. As practically everybody is involved in the same digital flux, individual variation is limited to the extent to which one chooses to replicate and disseminate the wartime and epidemiological metaphors that bolster the current public discourse. At the start of the pandemic, the most obvious increase in vaccination-related statements expressed pro-vaccination stances, ranging from pledges for proactive public policies (with a few apparent turnabouts, such as President Trump’s) to sceptical debunking in a more or less condescending tone, and to unreserved irony. A Los Angeles Times editorial asked “With coronavirus, will anti-vaxxers listen now?”. After this surge came a clear decrease in triumphalist posts such as “To all the anti-vaxxers out there: HOW DO YOU LIKE THE DEMO VERSION OF A WORLD WITHOUT VACCINES SO FAR?”. Vaccination-doubters have regained their usual online preeminence. The pandemic might indeed steer the more flexible among them towards acceptance, but anxiety also gives more appeal and effectiveness to fringe ideas: in the UK, the theory linking COVID-19 to 5G roll-out swiftly resulted in harassment of telecom technicians and arson. [...]
TypeJournal editorial
Publisher version
AccessOpen access
Appears in Collections:CRIA-UMinho - Artigos (Papers)

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