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Accepted Paper:

Care trade-offs — deservingness between drug users, public health and Covid-19  
Eana Meng (Harvard University) Johannes Lenhard (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

Based on ethnographic observations with several addiction and homeless support organisations during lockdown, we are asking: who is care for and who decides how it can be traded-off?

Paper long abstract:

Covid has had disproportionate influence on the most marginalised populations, including people struggling with substance use and homelessness. Based on several months of fieldwork with substance users and their support organisations during lockdown in the UK, we ask a fundamental question: who is care for and who decides how it can be traded-off?

Lockdown rules were unclear - given the lack of specific government guidelines - particularly in care institutions such as ones for drug users and those experiencing homelessness. Decisions around who can be cared for and who had to be excluded were made in a rushed, instinctive manner. Often, institutions were balancing between ‘care to ensure public health’ and ‘care for those most in need,’ where taking care of the majority meant decidedly not attending to the needs of the individual most in need. With observations from support workers using acupuncture as harm reduction for addiction and from a homeless shelter tasked with housing an influx of people, we will ethnographically examine how competing responsibilities, failure and deservingness tainted decisions mostly in favour of the majority. How did this play out, and what consequences did it have? More generally, what implications did such policies have to make us think about the nature of care?

Panel Heal10b
Care, responsibility, and COVID-19 social restrictions II
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 March, 2021, -