Risk perception, coronavirus and precariousness. A reflection on fieldwork under quarantine

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On 19 March 2020, I last met with a group of women from a neighbourhood of Monterrey, Mexico where I have spent the past year conducting ethnographic research. They had scheduled a meeting to decide whether to continue our weekly talks on health-related topics. ‘Is this coronavirus real?’ was the question guiding the meeting. Women shared their thoughts on their feelings on the threat that predominates in biomedical discourse. An air of resignation pervaded their speech. Nearly all of them suffer from chronic diseases and they clearly perceive the risk of their own death. However, the material conditions of their lives limit the scope of their strategies to protect themselves. A dialogue emerged between the women’s request for clarity regarding the pandemic and me, a researcher called on as a physician. This article seeks to reflect on the political and moral aspects of everyday life that configure risk perception in the context of the WHO-declared pandemic. I analyse the dialogue sustained in the meeting as part of an ethnographic research I am conducting in this neighbourhood. Most of its residents live under precarious circumstances, which is a fundamental element in understanding their responses to the current COVID-19 crisis.




Meza-Palmeros, J. A. (2020). Risk perception, coronavirus and precariousness. A reflection on fieldwork under quarantine. Health Sociology Review, 113–121. https://doi.org/10.1080/14461242.2020.1785321

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