Orientalism and the Advocacy of Face Masks

By | 11th January 2023

…it would be nice to think that the biomedical and public health elites in the UK and North America thought in a more nuanced way about the “Orient”, not least because of the wide influence of Edward Said’s critique of such thinking. We should, however, be used to disappointment when it comes to pandemic measures. For some time before 2020, and certainly afterwards, there has been a regular chorus of complaints about how British and American people just will not wear face masks in the winter, like “the Asians” do…

A concern for Orientalist thinking should also lead us to ask what British and American elites are doing with their representation of this imagined “Asia”. Is this coded advocacy of a society where populations are more docile and deferential to elite pronouncements, whether from the ‘left’ or the ‘right’? Some leading medical sociologists and behavioural scientists are indistinguishable in this respect from senior figures in public health agencies or the honoured scientists in research-intensive universities. Eminence-based declarations define ‘social justice’ as much as ‘population control’.
History and the social sciences have played little part in Covid pandemic management. This is another illustration of the costs that come with that exclusion.

A Social Science Space blog

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