“We must stop selling off our tomorrow:” A discussion on the social, medical and political responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and what might lie ahead

Aug. 26, 2020

The Brazil LAB and the Department of Preventative Medicine of the University of São Paulo (USP) organized a webinar on August 21, 2020, exploring the political determinants underlying the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on Brazil and the shifting nature of Global Health responses.

The webinar featured talks by the Brazil LAB director João Biehl (Susan Dod Brown Professor of Anthropology), anthropologist Richard Parker (Professor emeritus, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University), and legal scholar Deisy Ventura (Professor, School of Public Health, University of São Paulo). The event was moderated by José Ricardo Ayres and Nelson Gouveia, professor of USP’s Medical School.

The speakers highlighted that amidst rippling health, economic and political damage, we are forced to reckon with the deadly impact of environmental decline, the utter fragility of our systems of preparedness, and the entrenched forms of structural violence that exacerbate vulnerability, rates of mortality, and disparities in care. Intimately connected to political decisions and market interests, COVID-19 continues to spread and kill unevenly along the lines of age, class, race, gender, and geography.

During their lively interaction with viewers, the speakers discussed ways to maximize the leverage of embattled multi-lateral global health actors as well as the role of social sciences in illuminating forms of counter-politics and the cultural wisdom of vulnerable communities. As the Brazilian indigenous leader, environmentalist, and writer Ailton Krenak puts it: “We must stop selling off our tomorrow”.