Over 3 years since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous political analyses have extensively documented how political actors have responded to the health crisis, including the resort of many of them to populist performances. Less established, however, are how these actors evolve their political styles as the pandemic also evolves politically, socially, and epidemiologically. This presentation reviews and critically engages with the concept of medical populism, its elements of spectacularization, simplification, and forging of divisions, and the literature on its figurations during the pandemic in different countries. It then (re)applies this concept to significant events in the pandemic after the initial responses – e.g. the development of vaccines, the emergence of variants, the debates over whether the pandemic is over. Overall, this longer-term analysis shows that while politicians continue to dramatize their responses, offer simplistic solutions, and divide their public, these characteristics do not necessarily coexist at a given political moment. Medical populism is viewed as a repertoire of styles rather than a fixed set of characteristics. Reading List Lasco, G. (2020). Medical populism and the COVID-19 pandemic. Global public health, 15(10), 1417-1429.
Lecturer Gideon Lasco, MD, PhD, is a physician and medical anthropologist. He is a senior lecturer at the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Department of Anthropology, affiliate faculty at the UP College of Medicine’s Social Medicine Unit, a research fellow at the Ateneo de Manila University’s Development Studies Program, and an honorary fellow at Hong Kong University’s Centre for Criminology. Dr Lasco’s research projects have focused on contemporary health issues, including drug issues, COVID-19, health systems, and politics of health, and yielded over 50 journal articles and book chapters in the past five years. They have also led to two academic books: Drugs and Philippines Society (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2021), an edited volume which features critical perspectives on drug use and drug policy in the country, as well as Height Matters, a forthcoming monograph on human stature with the University of the Philippines Press. He also maintains a weekly column on health, culture, and national affairs in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and a column in SAPIENS. This online anthropology magazine focuses on the relationships of humans with other species.
Moderator Dr Vassilis Petsinis is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary (Institute of Global Studies). He is a political scientist with expertise in European Politics and Ethnopolitics. Dr Petsinis has conducted research and taught at universities and research institutes in Estonia (Tartu University), Germany (Herder Institut in Marburg), Denmark (Copenhagen University), Sweden (Lund University, Malmö University, Södertörns University, and Uppsala University), Hungary (Collegium Budapest/Centre for Advanced Study), Slovakia (Comenius University in Bratislava), Romania (New Europe College), and Serbia (University of Novi Sad). He holds a PhD in Russian & East European Studies from the University of Birmingham (UK).
Respondent Dr Maria Paula Prates is a medical anthropologist at the Department of Anthropology at UCL. She is interested in the embodied inequalities of the Anthropocene, especially that concerning Indigenous Women in lowland South America. She has worked with and among the Guaran-Mbyá in the last 20 years. She has ongoing research projects in reproductive justice, encompassing birthing, unconsented episiotomies, sterilization and c-section, and the imbricated relation between Tuberculosis and environmental degradation. She worked as an Adjunct Professor in the Anthropology of Health at UFCSPA, Brazil. She moved to the UK in 2018 as a Newton International Fellowship holder awarded by the British Academy and Newton Fund.