2 CFPs: Building Epidemic Futures & Anthropology of Vaccine Deployment

Dear Colleagues

Please consider submitting a paper to the following two panels for the RAI Medical Anthropology Conference: Mobilising Methods in Medical Anthropology (18-21 January 2022). Papers can be submitted by the 25th October through the online portal: https://therai.org.uk/conferences/mobilising-methods-in-medical-anthropology-2022/programme#10924


1) Building Epidemic Futures: Tensions, possibilities and contestations at the interface between anthropology and epidemiological evidence

Recent outbreaks destabilised established epidemic control technologies and required the development of new norms and standards for forecasting to design effective interventions, mobilising both epidemiological and anthropological expertise, and creating new possibilities for interdisciplinary collaborations. As part of efforts to apprehend and intervene on the present, mathematical modelling holds a central role in the production and anticipation of possible future(s). The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the complex political, scientific, and social relationships between models and futures as a matter of public concern. This panel sets out to ask how mathematical modelling for epidemics can draw on anthropological enquiry to create futures informed by the complexity of human behavior and dynamics. The panel will specifically interrogate the assumptions underpinning modelling at individual, household and community levels and explore the kinds of worlds and persons that models bring into being, as well as the political identities and relations that emerge from these assumptions. The panel welcomes contributions from across disciplines to share documented encounters between mathematical modelling and anthropology. We are particularly interested in receiving contributions that engage critically with the following themes:

1. How does modeling conceptualise, produce and govern futures? With what effects?

2. How do public(s) understand and perceive the role of modelling in making futures, and participate in this process through digital data platforms and citizen science projects?

3. Methodological considerations for collaborations between anthropology and mathematical modeling

4. How can anthropology offer critiques of models

5. The possibilities and challenges (ethical, practical and methodological) of interdisciplinary collaboration


2) The Anthropology of Vaccine Development and Deployment: Methodological Considerations

Recent epidemics, from Ebola to COVID-19 have seen the fast-tracking of clinical research to develop and deploy safe and effective vaccines but also raised growing concerns around growing vaccine hesitancy. Anthropologists have contributed vital insights on the social lives of vaccines and medical research. This work has highlighted the relevance of local histories and political economies, experiences of exclusion and mistrust and social constructions of risk as key components to understand vaccine hesitancy. Similarly, ethnographic engagement with vaccine trials has highlighted both the place of vaccine development in the structures of global capitalism and how medical research projects become enmeshed in local dynamics, producing new social relations and identities. These insights have informed interdisciplinary collaborations, as anthropological knowledge supports contextually approaches to community engagement, trial design or tracking vaccine anxiety on social media. Underpinning this research are significant methodological innovations, including research in digital spaces, work on animal-human relations and new experiments in participant observation. This panel welcomes papers that offer reflections on these methodological innovations, in response to the following questions:

- How can ethnographic and other social science methods contribute to our understanding of vaccine development, deployment and hesitancy?

- What are the limits and opportunities of interdisciplinary collaboration?

- What are the ethical and practical challenges of doing research on vaccines alongside an outbreak response, community engagement or a clinical trial?

- What are the challenges of doing anthropological research on vaccines across different spaces—from the Twittersphere to pharmaceutical companies, from rural locations to international institutions?


Many thanks and all the best


Dr Luisa Enria
Assistant Professor
Department of Global Health and Development
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Twitter: @luisaenria