Emily MendenhallMay 23, 2022
COVID, Community, and the Case of Okoboji
Vanderbilt University Press 2022
Unmasked: COVID, Community, and the Case of Okoboji (Vanderbilt UP, 2022) is the story of what happened in Okoboji, a small Iowan tourist town, when a collective turn from the coronavirus to the economy occurred in the COVID summer of 2020. State political failures, local negotiations among political and public health leaders, and community (dis)belief about the virus resulted in Okoboji being declared a hotspot just before the Independence Day weekend, when an influx of half a million people visit the town. The story is both personal and political. Author Emily Mendenhall, an anthropologist at Georgetown University, grew up in Okoboji, and her family still lives there. As the events unfolded, Mendenhall was in Okoboji, where she spoke formally with over 100 people and observed a community that rejected public health guidance, revealing deep-seated mistrust in outsiders and strong commitments to local thinking. Unmasked is a fascinating and heartbreaking account of where people put their trust, and how isolationist popular beliefs can be in America's small communities.
Professor Emily Mendenhall is a medical anthropologist and Professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She was awarded the George Foster Award for Practicing Medical Anthropology by the Society for Medical Anthropology in 2017. She is Editor-in-Chief of Social Science and Medicine-Mental Health and leads the office of Medical Anthropology and Critical Social Science. She has served as Honorary Faculty at the University of the Witwatersrand for the past decade. At Georgetown, she leads the global health concentration in the Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) Program in the School of Foreign Service.
Austin Clyde is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago Department of Computer Science. He researches artificial intelligence and high-performance computing for developing new scientific methods. He is also a visiting research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Science, Technology, and Society program, where my research addresses the intersection of artificial intelligence, human rights, and democracy.