Going Viral: Anthropological Approaches to Understanding the Spread of Disease

October 12, 2018 - 3:00pm to 4:00pm

Jessica Dimka, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh

Infectious diseases play an important role in human populations, influencing and
being influenced by biological, social and ecological variables from the
individual to the global level. Therefore, historical and current epidemics are
relevant to all subfields of anthropology, while anthropological perspectives and
methods that reveal important contextual factors are vital for effective public
health responses. I will illustrate these points with my research exploring the 1918
influenza pandemic (the “Spanish flu”) in a small community in Newfoundland
and Labrador. Using ethnographic, historical and archival data to construct an
agent-based computer simulation model, I tested hypotheses about how local
patterns of social organization may have influenced epidemic outcomes. For
example, reduction in school attendance when older children assumed adult
roles resulted in significant differences in epidemic size and timing. I will
conclude the talk with a preliminary discussion of my new project which will use
high-quality Norwegian records to investigate disability as a risk factor during the
1918 pandemic.

Location and Address

Anthropology Lounge, 3106 WWPH