Scenes of Shame and Stigma in Covid-19

Investigators: Professor Luna Dolezal, Dr Arthur Rose, and Dr Fred Cooper (University of Exeter)

This project addressed the urgent need to understand how social, political and technological features of the Covid-19 pandemic shaped the scenes of shaming and stigma. It investigated, through philosophical, cultural studies and historical analyses, the sites and circumstances of shame, shaming, stigma and discrimination during the first 12 months of the health crisis. The project found that interventions by the UK government made unnecessary room for shame, when public health would have been better served by attempts to confront, mitigate and prevent it. Healthcare policies, rhetoric and communication have contributed to the conditions in which shame and shaming occur, using divisive and blaming languages to deflect shaming from political responsibilities and structural harm.

Policy recommendations include:

  • Reject shame as a behavioural tool.
  • Build attentiveness to shame into institutional expertise and cultures.
  • Conduct audits on work which has to potential to generate/exacerbate shame.
  • Engage and collaborate with communities and publics to promote shame conscious health seeking behaviour.