Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Infections and Epidemics

MAT, the ‘open question’, and content retrospective in light of the COVID-19 pandemic

Cristina Moreno Lozano, Managing Editor at MAT (originally published on 31 March 2020).

As we prepare our Spring issue, the first to be published from MAT’s new institutional home at the Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology (EdCMA), at the University of Edinburgh, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic sets an extraordinary scenario for all of us, on a range of different personal and professional levels. Medical anthropology scholars across the world are mobilising to produce online teaching resources, webinars, or collaborative syllabi, to support and care for their students in these distressful times, to speedily publish critical commentaries and fora on the multiple complex social issues this epidemic poses, and to conciliate this complex scenario with care responsibilities for their kin, their communities and themselves.

Open-access publishing seems even more crucial than ever today. Journals and publishing presses in the life-sciences, medicine and social sciences and humanities seem to be opening their paywalls for limited or unlimited timeframes in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic so that knowledge is made available in a timely manner. MAT has been and continues to be at the cutting-edge of open-access publishing in social science. Fostering the values of accessibility, internationalism, generous collegiality and quality in its open-access publishing has been at the forefront of this project since its inception.

Critically troubling the 'open question' has also been at the heart of this project (Kowal et al. 2014). As I move between my roles as a (migrant) PhD student in training and assistant editor at MAT in these troubling days, my thoughts increasingly loop around the notions of care and infrastructures. In the complex social context, we are engaged with during this pandemic, the caring practices and the 'ecologies of support' (Duclos and Sánchez Criado 2019) that implicitly nurture collaborative, open-access publishing infrastructures become more visible. And yet, they are nothing new to anyone who cares about open-access publishing. In their welcoming message on EdCMA’s website published in the winter of 2019, the MAT collective wrote: “accessibility is not only about open access”. How we go about critically troubling 'open' or 'accessibility', among other aspects implicit in this project is today very much work-in-progress at MAT.

In 2009, Arthur Kleinman and Sjaak Van der Geest and  wrote an article in the Dutch journal Medische Antropologie, the antecedent of MAT, titled ‘Care’ in health care: remaking the moral world of medicine. This has stuck with me: “Caregiving is about acknowledgment, concern, affirmation, assistance, responsibility, solidarity, and all the emotional and practical acts that enable life.” (Kleinman and van der Geest 2009, 161). It’s not business as usual at MAT. We would like to acknowledge that. As I exchange multiple emails, drafts with track changes, files, messages, and virtual meetings with the MAT collective, special section editors, reviewers, authors, and former and current editorial staff members, I realise that whilst we might be slowing down these processes, all of MAT’s community keeps caring for MAT, for each other, and the knowledge production we all bring about together. 

Over the past six years, Medicine Anthropology Theory has published a large variety of readable, accessible and original research engaging ethnographically and critically with infectious diseases and epidemics. Dozens of articles, think pieces, interventions, photo essays, and whole special issues available in MAT’s archives serve as testament of the ethnographic knowledge produced by our community, from a range of geographies and local healthcare and disease realities. In the context of a global pandemic, it is crucial to have cross-cultural perspectives, and a global scope to our understanding of epidemics and our responses to them. Below we provide a collection of relevant pieces previously published in MAT and retrospectively curated in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We hope this collection will continue to enrich critical thinking, foster interdisciplinary exchange, and support the ongoing work of scholars in our community and beyond.

MAT content retrospective

Outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics

Caduff, Carlo. 2018. After the next. Notes on serial novelty. MAT 5 (4): 86–105;

Erickson, Susan. 2019. Global health futures? Reckoning with a pandemic bond. MAT 6 (3): 77–108;

Lowe, Celia. 2019. Viral sovereignty. Security and mistrust as measures of future health in the Indonesian H5N1 influenza outbreak. MAT 6 (3): 109–132;

Infectious diseases, prevention, and policy

Engelmann, Lukas and Kehr, Janina. 2015. Double trouble? Towards an epistemology of co-infection. MAT 2 (1): 1–31;

Gilley, Brian J and Pfeiffer, Elizabeth J. 2017. ‘White man’s disease’. American Indian AIDS conspiracy theories and the refusal of synthesis. MAT 4 (3): 1–20;

Girard, Gabriel. 2016. Undetectable? Looking for urban traces of HIV/AIDS in Montreal’s gay Village. MAT 3 (3): 72–86;

Lindenbaum, Shirley. 2015. An annotated history of kuru. MAT 2 (1): 95–126;

Moyer, Eileen. 2019. Becoming a target of HIV intervention. The science and politics of anthropological reframing. MAT 6 (4): 315–324;

Peterson, Kristin and Folayan, Morenike. 2017. A research alliance. Tracking the politics of HIV-prevention trials in Africa. MAT 4 (2): 18–33;

Powers, Theodore. 2017. Pathways, intersections, and hotspots. Multisited fieldwork and the South African HIV/AIDS policy process. MAT 4 (5): 73–98;

Securitisation, humanitarianism, and emergency responses

Elliott, Denielle. 2015. Other images. Ebola and medical humanitarianism in Monrovia. MAT 2 (2): 102–124;

Park, Sung-Joon. 2017. ‘They overworked us’. Humiliation and claims to recognition of volunteer nurses in the aftermath of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. MAT 4 (3): 75–94;

Roth, Emmanuelle. 2019. Beneath Ebola ruins. The enduring temporariness of the 2014-2016 outbreak response in Guinea. MAT 6 (2): 93–101;

Global health and infection control

Adams, Vincanne. 2016. What is critical global health? MAT 3 (2): 186–197;

Biehl, João. 2016. Theorizing global health. MAT 3 (2): 127–142;

Dirlikov, Emilio. 2015. BRICS health and tuberculosis control collaborations during an era of global health. MAT 2 (1): 136–153;

Dixon, Justin and Chandler, Clare. 2019. Opening up ‘fever’, closing down medicines. Algorithms as blueprints for global health in an era of antimicrobial resistance. MAT 6 (4): 53–79;

Richardson, Eugene T. 2019. On the coloniality of global public health. MAT 6 (4): 101–118;

Anthropology and epidemiology

Anderson, Warwick. 2018. Epidemiology, social history, and the beginnings of medical anthropology in the highlands of New Guinea. MAT 5 (1): 78–87;

Ceron, Alejandro. 2019. Neocolonial epidemiology. Public health practice and the right to health in Guatemala. MAT 6 (1): 30–54;

Elliott, Denielle and Thomas, Timothy K. 2017. Lost in translation? On collaboration between anthropology and epidemiology. MAT 4 (2): 1–17;

Janes, Craig. R. 2017. A reflection on medical anthropology and epidemiology. MAT 4 (2): 50–59;

Seeberg, Jens and Meinert, Lotte. 2015. Can epidemics be noncommunicable? Reflections on the spread of ‘noncommunicable’ diseases. MAT 2 (2): 54–71;

Treatments, vaccines and drug development

Alenichev, Arsenii. 2018. In the shadow of tomorrow. Ebola vaccine research in Liberia. MAT 5 (5): 81–87;

Brives, Charlotte. 2016. Biomedical packages. Adjusting drugs, bodies, and environment in a phase III clinical trial. MAT 3 (1): 1–28;

Zoonotic infections

Cabalion, Sarah et al. 2018. Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus and human-camel relationships in Qatar. MAT 5 (3): 177–194;

Keck, Frederic and Lynteris, Christos. 2018. Zoonosis. Prospects and challenges for medical anthropology. MAT 5 (3): 1–14; 10.17157/mat.5.3.372. Access to full Special Issue:

Evidence and data

Adams, Vincanne and Biehl, João. 2016. The work of evidence in critical global health. MAT 3 (2): 123–126;

Briggs, Charles L. 2016. Ecologies of evidence in a mysterious epidemic. MAT 3 (2): 149–162;

Duclos, Vincent. 2019. Algorithmic futures. The life and death of Google Flu Trends. MAT 6 (3): 54–76;

Reynolds, Linsey. 2014. ‘Making known’ or ‘counting our children’? Constructing and caring for children in epidemic South Africa. MAT 1 (1): 114–143;

Care practices, health care, and hospitals

Duclos, Vincent. 2015. Global eHealth. Designing spaces of care in the era of global connectivity. MAT 2 (1): 154–164;

Danely, Jason. 2016. Affect, infrastructure, and vulnerability. Making and breaking eldercare. MAT 3 (2): 198–222;

Grant, Jenna. 2018. Friends, partners, and orphans. Relations that make and unmake a hospital. MAT 5 (2): 56–72; 10.17157/mat.5.2.533.

Lichtenstein, Ian. 2019. Everyday adaptability in Ghanaian hospital laboratories. MAT 6 (4): 142–151;

Ticktin, Miriam Iris. 2019. From the human to the planetary. Speculative futures of care. MAT 6 (3): 133–160;



Duclos, Vincent and Sánchez Criado, Tomás. 2019. Care in Trouble: Ecologies of Support from Below and Beyond. Medical Anthropology Quarterly

Kleinman, Arthur and van der Geest, Sjaak. 2009. ‘Care’ in health care. Remaking the moral world of medicine. Medische Antropologie 21 (1): 159–168.

Kowal, Emma, Todd Meyers, Eugene Raikhel, Peter Redfield, Sharon Abramowitz, Barbara Andersen, Eileen Moyer, Emily Yates-Doerr, Jenna Grant. 2015. The open question. Medical anthropology and open access. Medicine Anthropology Theory 2 (1): 75–94;