Features

On the Search for the Origins of COVID-19: A Forum

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More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the origin of the virus causing the disease remains uncertain. The predominant theory is that its emergence in human populations was the result of zoonotic transmission, via an as-yet to be determined animal host. A competing (if still marginal) theory holds that a more likely source of the initial outbreak was an …

Lectures

A Political Project and a Geopolitical Terrain: The New Referral Hospital Built by China in Niamey

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The first time I approached the new General Referral Hospital in Niamey in June 2018, I thought it looked like a prison building, huge and isolated in the landscape. After leaving the center of Niger’s capital, my colleague and I drove for 15–20 minutes, then turned left after the Gendarmerie Nationale; we found ourselves on an arid, …

Lectures

From Bat Soup to Bean Sprouts: Coronavirus Food Fears in Historical Perspective

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On a trip to Shandong, China, at the end of January 2020, a few days after the lockdown of Wuhan, I watched a video of a stewed bat on Douyin – the Chinese video-sharing app. The bat sat in a bowl of soup, its boiled skin drawn back across its face to reveal its teeth, almost as if maliciously grinning. …

Lectures

How to Make Sense of “Traditional (Chinese) Medicine” In a Time of Covid-19: Cold War Origin Stories and the WHO’s Role in Making Space for Polyglot Therapeutics

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Note: I wrote this for anyone trying to “teach the virus,” something I will soon be doing myself. The question in the title is meant to signal that this is an open-ended dialogue. Most of the sources are in English and are easily available, meaning that students can use them as evidence, read other scholarship, and develop their own (counter)

Lectures

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things: Eldercare in Wuhan under COVID-19

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When the pernicious effects of COVID-19 manifested clearly first in Wuhan, the entire city and the whole of Hubei Province came to a standstill. The lockdown of Wuhan brought unprecedented suffering and life-threatening challenges for millions of people resident in that first epicenter. Now, COVID-19 poses those same challenges to people and healthcare systems globally. Specifically, it tests our collective …

Lectures

Reflecting on SARS, 17 years and two flu-like epidemics later

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On April 12, 2003, I was evacuated from my post teaching English at Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, China. I packed my belongings into two suitcases and a duffle bag, got on a bus, crossed the border into Hong Kong, and flew, with my N95 mask on, back to the United States. It was the height of China’s outbreak of SARS, …