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COVID-19 and Shame Book Project

The Scenes of Shame and Stigma in COVID-19 research team, Luna Dolezal, Arthur Rose and Fred Cooper, have co-authored a book that investigates how shame and stigma were generated and exacerbated by public health policy, messaging and practice during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK during 2020. The book titled, COVID-19 and Shame: Political Emotions and Public Health in the UK, was contracted by Bloomsbury Academic for the Critical Interventions Medical Humanities book series and is available to pre-order now.

The book builds on previous publications from the Scenes of Shame and Stigma in COVID-19 Project which look at the public shaming of frontline doctors during Covid, the positive and negative stigma attached to health workers and the idea the ‘saving face’ is motivating political public health decisions. As well as these publications, the project team has published an article in The Lancet titled COVID-19, online shaming, and health-care professionals.

Alongside the book, the research team have been working with Volume and have produced a 6-episode podcast series to act as an accompaniment to the book. The series looks at scenes of shame and stigma in the UK, and focuses on particular findings that have come up in the research. Released in Feb 2022

The COVID-19 and Shame: Political Emotions and Public Health in the UK Book

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in 2020, interventions by the UK government maximised rather than minimized experiences of shame. From healthcare workers insulted in the streets to the online shaming of ‘Covidiots’ and the ‘Lepers of Leiceister’, public animus about the pandemic found scapegoats for its frustrations. Rather than intervene with robust strategies to sensitize people about the effects of this behaviour, however, the government’s healthcare policies and rhetoric seemed to exacerbate experiences of shame, relying on a language that intensified oppositional, antagonistic thinking, while dissimulating about its own responsibilities.

In this book, we consider how shame came to shape and structure the UK’s response to COVID-19, through the format of six thematic chapters. Across our six case studies – on pandemic language and the use of the neologism ‘Covidiot’; on the online shaming of healthcare professionals; on racism, shame, and health inequalities; on shaming public health interventions over obesity; on a rhetoric of ‘common sense’ which made unnecessary space for shame; and on ‘Operation Moonshot’, the mass testing programme deployed as a means of saving face – we explore how shame has been explicitly and tacitly produced and encouraged. We conclude that there is an urgent need for public health interventions that are ‘shame sensitive,’ addressing the experience of shame as a crucial, if often overlooked, consequence of such interventions.

Press Releases and Book Reviews:

Outputs from the Scenes of Shame and Stigma in COVID-19 Research Team:


  • Cooper, F. and Dolezal, L., ‘Shame-Sensitive Public Health’, Medical Humanities and Covid/Post-Covid Challenges Conference, Linköping University, 19-21 Sept 2022.*~
  • Rose, A. ‘Shame, Stigma and COVID-19’. Futures Ahead Conference, Linköping University, 15-17 June, 2022*~
  • Dolezal, L. and Fischer, C. “Losing the Body-as-Home?: Nostalgia, Embodiment and the Phenomenology of Illness” Nostalgia Between Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis Workshop, University of Vienna, 20 May 2022.*~
  • Dolezal, L. ‘A Sartrean Analysis of Pandemic Shaming’, at the Philosophy Department Seminar Series, University of York, 16 March 2022.*~
  • Dolezal, L. ‘Healthcare Workers and Online Shaming During COVID-19’, at the Media, Communication & COVID-19 Speaker Series, Bournemouth University, 27 October 2021.*~ Watch recording.
  • Dolezal, L. ‘Pandemic Shaming and Healthcare Workers’, at the Humanities and Medicine Seminar Series, University of Limerick, 9 March 2022.*~ Watch recording


  • Cooper, F., Dolezal, L., Rose, A. ‘The Shameful Dead: Vaccine Hesitancy, Shame and Necropolitics during COVID-19.’ Fred Cooper and Des Fitzgerald (eds). Knowing the Pandemic: Communication, Information and Experience. Manchester University Press, (Forthcoming).~*
  • Cooper, F., Dolezal and, L., & Rose, A. (2023). COVID-19 and Shame: Political Emotions and Public Health in the Uk (Critical Interventions in the Medical and Health Humanities). London,: Bloomsbury Academic. Open Access.*~
  • Dolezal, L., Spratt, T. ‘Fat Shaming’ under Neoliberalism and COVID-19: Examining the UK’s ‘Tackling Obesity’ Campaign. Sociology of Health & Illness. 2022 Sep 30. *~ Open Access.
  • Rose, A. Closure and the Critical Epidemic Ending. Centaurus: Journal of the European Society for the History of Science. Vol. 1. No. 1. 2022. 1-12.*~ Open Access.
  • Stanier, J., Miglio, N. and Dolezal, L. Pandemic Politics and Phenomenology: Editors’ Introduction. Puncta: Journal of Critical Phenomenology Vol. 5, No. 1, 1-12.*~ Open Access.
  • Dolezal, L. and Lucas, G. Differential Experiences of Social Distancing: Considering Alienated Embodied Communication and Racism. Puncta: Journal of Critical Phenomenology Vol. 5, No. 1, 97-105. *~ Open Access.
  • Dolezal, L., Rose, A., and Cooper, F.  COVID-19, Online Shaming and Healthcare Professionals. The Lancet. Vol 398. August 2021: 482-483*~ Open Access.
  • Rose, A. Imagining Breath, Imagining 9/11 in Indra Singha’S Animal People. Studies In the Novel. Vol. 53, No. 4, Spring 2021: 69-85~ Open Access.


Seminar Series:

  • ‘Scenes of Shame and Stigma in COVID-19’ interdisciplinary seminar series, for more details and recordings of each seminar click here.

Podcast Series:

Blog Posts:


Useful Links: