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Position Pieces

Vol 7 No 2: September issue

From social distancing to social containment: Reimagining sociality for the coronavirus pandemic

March 20, 2020
September 30, 2020


This essay develops an anthropological critique of ‘social distancing’. While the 2020 coronavirus pandemic requires us to reconfigure established forms of sociality, distancing regimes such as ‘lockdowns’ can profoundly disrupt the provision of care and support, creating practical difficulties and existential suffering. I advocate instead for strategies of ‘social containment’, outlining several of the containment arrangements people in England have developed to reconcile relational obligations with public health imperatives during the pandemic. I end by addressing some of the steps anthropologists must take when translating such ideas into policy.