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Shame and the Pandemic Podcast

The Scenes of Shame and Stigma in COVID-19 project team, working with Volume, has produced a podcast series ‘Shame and the Pandemic’ that acts as an accompaniment to their book COVID-19 and Shame: Political Emotions and Public Health in the UK.  The 6-episode series unpacks the role that shame and shaming played in the UK’s first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Episode 1: What Shame Had To Do With It

Episode 2: Fat Shaming and the Tackling Obesity Campaign

  • On the 5th of April 2020, Downing Street announced that Boris Johnson, then UK prime minister, was in hospital with Covid-19. When he was discharged, he blamed the severity of his condition on his weight: “I was too fat”, he declared.  In this episode, we explore some of the consequences of this statement with Professor Luna Dolezal and Dr Tanisha Spratt: how it fed into the government’s subsequent Tackling Obesity campaign, and sanctioned existing patterns of fat shaming as support for the NHS. We then fit this into larger patterns of shaming in the pandemic, which often served to target those whose actions didn’t conform to wider expectations.

Episode 3: Covidiots and Common Sense

  • In this episode we hear from Dr Fred Cooper, Dr Arthur Rose and Professor Luna Dolezal who discuss the appeal to ‘common sense’ as a rhetoric of public health, which shifted responsibility away from political failures and towards ‘covidiots’, people whose failure to use common sense cast them as enablers of the pandemic.

Episode 4: The Racism Pandemic

  • In this episode, we hear from Dr Nikita Simpson on the phenomenon of the ‘Leicester Lepers’, in which racialised communities were subject to increased stigma over their supposed inability to follow public health advice. Dr Fred Cooper explores how complex systems of structural racism and shame and individual experiences of public shaming intersected, and how shame was heightened by a political refusal to directly address questions of racism and race.

Episode 5: From Moonshots to Shame-Sensitive Public Health

  • In this episode, we hear from Dr Arthur Rose and Professor Luna Dolezal on the problems of using expansive rhetoric to deflect reputation damage. As an alternative to these and the other shame-intensive practices of the series, the team proposes a Shame-Sensitive Public Health that might address the more corrosive effects of shame in the pandemic.

Episode 6: Monkeypox

  • The series concludes by hearing from Dr João Florêncio, Professor Luna Dolezal, Dr Fred Cooper and Dr Arthur Rose on the challenges that monkeypox, COVID-19 and, before it, AIDS-HIV pose to habits of intimacy, sexuality and togetherness. What happens ‘after’ the pandemic, we conclude, is not just a matter for dealing with the ‘next’ outbreak, but the legacies of epidemics that have gone before

For all episodes and further resources visit Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

Hosted by Paul McNally and produced by Volume.

This podcast series was funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) grant number AH/V013483/1. Further support has come from the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health (WCCEH) at the University of Exeter, the Shame and Medicine project, the Scenes of Shame and Stigma in COVID-19 project and the Wellcome Trust grant number 217879/Z/19/Z. Hosted by Paul McNally and produced by Volume.

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