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A GP, a virus and a patient: the story of incertitude: FORUM

© 2020 European Association of Social Anthropologists.
Second, what are the implications of travel restrictions of unknown duration for the
planning of new anthropological research projects? Universities are increasingly cautious
about allowing researchers to go to ’risky’ places. With travel warnings issued for prac-
tically every country in the world, what possibilities remain? Some anthropologists have
shifted their focus to ‘home’, at least for now. Within days after the epidemic reached
Europe, there emerged a number of blogs where social scientists document their own expe-
riences during this crisis. But turning accounts of the current volatile situation into articles
suitable for long‐winded peer review processes will probably prove to be challenging.
Moreover, the exodus from ‘the eld’ raises complex questions about the ethics
involved in carrying out eldwork among people in disadvantaged positions. It seems sen-
sible for researchers to leave, for their own safety and in order not to make use of scarce
resources at a time of crisis. Yet, how can one assess risk and potential harm at a time of
global crisis, especially while the epidemic does not evolve everywhere at the same time and
with the same speed? Moreover, what are the consequences of leaving for researchers’ rela-
tions to their interlocutors in the eld and for their understanding of people’s lifeworld?
Now that anthropologists return to where they supposedly belong, the experiences of the
marginalised people many of them work with are ever more unlikely to be heard.
Finally, what are the implications of ‘social distancing’, currently the main
mode of living on a global scale, for ethnographic eldwork as an intimate practice?
Anthropologists are used to living with their interlocutors and to move with them
through time and space. This is currently simply not possible. Digital solutions would
necessarily exclude people and locations without access to the internet.
Ethnographic eldwork is quarantined for an unknown period of time. We should
already start to think about the long‐term consequences of this quarantine: method-
ologically; with regards to planning and funding of research projects; and in relation to
our existing eld sites, where we have a history and hope to have a future.
Gerda Kuiper
Global South Studies Center
Universität zu Köln
A GP, a virus and a patient: the story of
This contribution is a collaboration between two anthropologists and a general prac-
titioner, reecting on the lockdown and the development of a new medical practice.
The COVID‐19 outbreak and subsequent measures leading to the lockdown created a
© 2020 European Association of Social Anthropologists.
new work environment focused on teleworking, the use of mobile phones and a greater
collaboration with authorities.
After picking up the phone, Emma has to ensure the patient is able to nish a sen-
tence, since being short of breath is a sign of potential infection. But how can a doctor
negotiate a situation of anamnesis by phone? She tries to appropriate this alien work
environment by putting her phone on speaker, in order to recreate her medical ofce
at home. Emma wants the patient to have a space for themselves.
This space she tries to create comes from her practice. In her ofce, she tries to give
patients the tools needed to be egotistical, giving them a place to talk about their prob-
lems. Although she creates a space by putting her phone on speaker to have the feeling
the patient is in the same room as herself, she cannot guarantee the patient’s ability to
create a space for themselves, a place where they can take part in this ‘medical con-
sumption’ (Boltanski 1971, p. 209). The intimate, in this case, seems to be held in the
distance between doctor and patient.
Emma tries to ensure her patients have access to the narrative realm, since class,
gender, race, ability and language can disadvantage the patient’s ability to express what
they feel (Barbot and Dodier 2000). These realities, associated with the social distance
occurring between a GP and dominated populations, participated to reify symbolic
violence, which leads to a sanitary insecurity. The concept of egoism should be further
Listening to the Other, being uncertain
Emma’s rituals have been abruptly changed by the lockdown, creating the need
to diagnose by phone and therefore unable to use all her senses. Human percep-
tion of reality is localised, and mediated. In order to have access to the patient’s
realm, Emma uses a narrative analysis, by taking everyday entry points to assess
the broader context. By focusing on the use of narrative analysis in order to
assess the health of patients, Emma wonders if she is able to capture the patient’s
This debrief about Emma’s practices show the vulnerability of people, both patients
and doctors, in the current crisis and the different creative processes, giving us the
opportunity to explore the agency of general practitioners and their rapid appropria-
tion of new tools to practice.
Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale (2020) 28, 2 303–304. © 2020 The Author. Social Anthropology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
on behalf of European Association of Social Anthropologists.
Margot Lammers and Arno Leclercq
Laboratoire d’Anthropologie des Mondes Contemporains
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Hanna Ballout
Faculté de médecine
Université catholique de Louvain
[Correction added on 26 June 2020, after rst online publication: Arno Leclercq’s surname and email
address have been corrected in this current version.]
Barbot, J. and N. Dodier 2000. ‘L’émergence d’un tiers public dans la relation malade‐médecin’,
L’exemple de l’épidémie à VIH’, Sciences Sociales et Santé 18: 75–119.
Boltanski, L. 1971. ‘Les usages sociaux du corps’, Annales 26: 205–33.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use,
distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
Whose responsibility? COVID‐19 in a
homeless shelter in the UK
Anna greets me warmly when I arrive for my volunteering shift at the homeless shelter
on a Sunday in early April. ‘So much has changed in the last weeks, you won’t believe
it.’ In fact, the shift that is mainly concerned with putting the last touches on dinner
and serving it to the roughly 20 residents seems to happen completely normally; within
two hours, we feed the hungry lot and clean up after ourselves. The atmosphere is
relaxed as people are watching loud television in the dining room. But when I return to
Anna at reception, she lls me in:
You know that so many people here have addiction issues. We started with letting
them have alcohol on the courtyard, we even give it to them; at rst just anything
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Full-text available
La emergencia de un « tercer público » en la relación enfermo-médico. El ejemplo de la epidemia de VIH El artículo estudia, en un contexto caracterizado por la gran publicidad dada a las innovaciones terapéuticas, la manera en que los pacientes seropositivos se informan sobre los tratamientos. Para hacerlo, se basa en una encuesta por intermedio de cuestionarios/entrevistas realizados con 63 pacientes de un hospital parisino. Los autores muestran los contrastes existentes entre los pacientes segûn dos dimensiones principales : el grado de proximidad del paciente con respecto al saber especializado, el grado de homogeneidad que el paciente le atribuye al saber médico. En el cruce de estas dimensiones, el artículo distingue très formas de compromiso de los pacientes frente a los tratamientos, es decir très maneras de situarse simultaneamente frente a los medios de comunicación, a las asociaciones, a los médicos de cabecera y al entorno : el recurso en exterioridad, la intégración en las instituciones biomédicas, la alternancia organizada entre instancias heterogeneas. El artículo explora las diferencias sociales subyacentes a estos contrastes y señala ciertas evoluciones importantes en el curso de la epidemia.
S'il fallait définir le modèle auquel s'apparentent aujourd'hui la sociologie et l'ethnologie du corps, on ne pourrait sans doute trouver meilleur paradigme que celui du « colloque interdisciplinaire », lieu de rencontre fictif et abstrait où se rassemblent pour un temps, autour d'un même domaine du réel ou d'un problème social perçu et désigné comme tel par la conscience commune, des spécialistes venus des disciplines les plus différentes.
L’émergence d’un tiers public dans la relation malade-médecin
  • Barbot