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All heroes and all villains. Remarks from rabies in India and COVID- 19 in Italy

All heroes and all villains. Remarks from rabies in India and COVID- 19 in Italy

Deborah Nadal (University of Glasgow)

As a medical anthropologist, I spent 2020 working on dog-mediated rabies in India and observing how people in Italy, my home country, understood and experienced the current pandemic. Both rabies and COVID-19 are diseases of animal origin, yet differ in many aspects: 99.9% lethal yet slow to spread, through animal bites, the first; quick to jump from person to person, yet asymptomatic for most, the second. Despite this vast difference, particularly regarding transmission dynamics and rates, we can observe a common pattern, namely the reluctance to accept that we are all in this (infectious relationship) together. This trans- lates into the difficulty to resist the temptation of blaming others for disease spreading and, consequently, to be willing to feel and be part of the solution. This paper will reflect on camaraderie – inter- species camaraderie in the case of rabies, inter-community camaraderie in the case of COVID-19 – as a possibly useful concept, or even ideal, to survive and navigate healthily through the Anthropocene. Deborah Nada l is a cultural and medical anthropologist specialised in South Asia. Her main areas of interest are health and illness and the human-animal relation, but she mostly enjoys working at their intersection. She is particularly interested in zoonotic diseases, One Health, discrimination in cross-species health, veterinary anthropology, and multispecies ethnography.


Deborah Nadal is a cultural and medical anthropologist specialised in South Asia. Her main areas of interest are health and illness and the human-animal relation, but she mostly enjoys working at their intersection.