Epidemic Time: Thinking from a Sick Bed
Prof Felicity CallardZoom
I spent much of 2020 in bed. I think from this position of horizontality about the coronavirus epidemic – and how such a position might reorient questions regarding the visibility and invisibility of suffering and sickness. To experience an epidemic while lying on a sickbed opens up other ways of thinking through time, epidemics and sequence than those commonly consolidated through epidemiological models and epidemic historiography. I consider in particular the patient-named illness ‘Long Covid’ – whose name challenged the assumptions about short-term, mild illness from early, formal reports from Wuhan, China. Contestations over the nature of the suffering gathered under ‘Long Covid’ allow us to reflect on epistemic struggles and who gets to make medical knowledge today. They also crack open earlier, twentieth-century struggles over illness aetiologies and adjudications over symptomatology. The term Long Covid, in other words, opens multiple arguments over what is made visible – and with what consequences – when conceptualizing illness and what is envisaged as coming after.