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Accepted Paper:

Social contagion, contamination and connections in anthropological legacies  
Lotte Meinert (Ã…rhus University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores concepts of social contagion, contamination, and connections in anthropological legacies and studies and considers various analytics of social contagion for thinking about epidemic futures.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines how some of the classical anthropological concepts of diffusion, contamination, communication, imitation, and personhood may contribute to our understanding of epidemics of non-communicable diseases. How might anthropological legacies such as Alfred Kroeber's ideas about cultural diffusion help us understand social epidemics of today? The term contagion used to have wider social connotations and not only medical ones, as Mary Douglas' work has underscored (1966). What can Douglas' as well as Bateson's famous insight that 'we cannot not communicate' (1972) teach us in relation to the global epidemic spread of so-called non-communicable diseases? Is Gabriel Tarde's theory of the social (1899) a theory of social contagion that we have not yet fully appreciated? If we move further back in history and take seriously what Tyler found among South American people a long time ago, "different persons are not necessarily separate beings" (Tylor 1865) What does this mean for how we understand processes of social contagion, units of analysis and social connections?

Panel P105
Contagious connections: epidemics of non-communicable diseases and social contagion
  Session 1