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Vol 11 No 1: The Immune System, Immunity and Immune Logics

Pandemic Life-lines: A Multimodal Autoethnography of COVID-19 Illness, Isolation, and Shared Immunities

September 11, 2022
March 15, 2024


As a crosscutting concept in biology, anthropology, and philosophy, immunity has been a critical ‘site’ of debate on the relations between self and other, organism and environment, risk and responsibility, the corporeal and the political. In this Research Article, I trace how these relations and everyday life during the COVID-19 pandemic relied on a web of coordinated—and sometimes unexpected—lines of communication, restriction, and solidarity. Using an experimental approach that combines multimodal autoethnography and multiscalar relational analysis, I present a first-person account of travelling during, testing for, and falling ill and isolating with COVID-19 in late 2021. I explore how pandemic life-lines, including public health measures, vaccinations, devices, and helplines, as well as mundane gestures of care and ecologies of support, acted together as shared immunities. In this exploration, I propose to reconceptualise ‘immunity’ as a process network rather than a defence apparatus, shedding light on how these life-lines may influence differential trajectories of disease and healing. To conclude, I discuss how my conceptual and methodological approach contributes to a social ecological understanding of immunity, that goes beyond the biopolitical, in times of pandemic and in the future.