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
- We hear from Professor Luna Dolezal and Dr Arthur Rose, researchers from the Scenes of Shame and Stigma in Covid-19 project at the University of Exeter. They discuss examples of health worker shaming and war metaphors, opening up an in-depth discussion of shame and shaming which lays the groundwork for the rest of the Shame and the Pandemic series.
- 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.
- 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
Hosted by Paul McNally and produced by Volume.