[Book] The Anthropology of Epidemics

The Anthropology of Epidemics
Edited by Ann H. Kelly, Frédéric Keck, and Christos Lynteris
Published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group)
2019, 194 pages


Over the past decades, infectious disease epidemics have come to increasingly pose major global health challenges to humanity. The Anthropology of Epidemics approaches epidemics as total social phenomena: processes and events which encompass and exercise a transformational impact on social life whilst at the same time functioning as catalysts of shifts and ruptures as regards human/non-human relations. Bearing a particular mark on subject areas and questions which have recently come to shape developments in anthropological thinking, the volume brings epidemics to the forefront of anthropological debate, as an exemplary arena for social scientific study and analysis.

Table of Contents

0. Introduction: The Anthropology of Epidemics
1. Simulations of Epidemics: Techniques of Global Health and Neo-Liberal Government
2. Great Anticipations
3. What is an Epidemic Emergency?
4. Migrant Birds or Migrant Labour? Money, Mobility and the Emergence of Poultry Epidemics in Vietnam 
5. Photography, Zoonosis and Epistemic Suspension after the End of Epidemics
6. The Multispecies Infrastructure of Zoonosis
7. Complexity, Anthropology and Epidemics
8. Pandemic Publics: How Epidemics Transform Social and Political Collectives of Public Health
9. Of What Are Epidemics the Symptom? Speed, Interlinkage and Infrastructure in Molecular Anthropology

Book Review

Ann H. Kelly, Frédéric Keck and Christos Lynteris’ edited volume, The Anthropology of Epidemics, was published in the fall of 2019.This was, of course, before global movement drew largely to a halt, before the majority of the earth’s human population was shut indoors and before words like “virus” and “pandemic” proliferated in academic, popular and political discourses alikeToday, when mass media’s preferred genre is live updates on unending crisis and no amount of sovereign power seems capable of eradicating the COVID-19 pandemic, this curated collection is far more than timely. Together the chapters, which span a rich array of sites, material histories and pathogenic routes, provide insight into how ethnographic studies of epidemics might challenge the central assumptions of not only anthropology, but social theory writ large.

Sophia Goodfriend, Duke University, LSE Blog


Ann H. Kelly is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, King’s College London, UK, and the Co-Deputy Director of the King’s Global Health Institute. Her work focuses on the socio-material practices of global health research and innovation in sub-Saharan Africa.

Frédéric Keck is Director of Research at CNRS, attached to the Laboratory for Social Anthropology in Paris, France. He has conducted researches on the genealogy of social sciences, the ethnography of zoonotic diseases, and the microbial history of collections of human remains.

Christos Lynteris is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews, UK. His work focuses on the anthropological and historical examination of infectious disease epidemics. He is the author of The Spirit of Selflessness in Maoist China (2012) and Ethnographic Plague (2016).