Fear of Drug-resistant Tuberculosis as Social Contagion


This article explores the spread of tuberculosis, the fear of infection as well as rejection and care across family ties and doctor-patient relationships based on a case study in Odisha, India. Social contagion is seen as the communication of the phenomenal in ways that reproduce perceptions, feelings or the faculty of will in another person, involving modifications of intensity, meaning and context. This paper discusses the impact of the social contagion of fear in relation to drug-resistant tuberculosis. It shows how such contagion can be stimulated by medical doctors and severely disrupt kinship ties with a serious negative impact on the course of treatment. The paper argues that in such cases, social contagion and biological infection become mutually reinforcing through a vicious cycle: the former may undermine necessary social support embedded in family relations, thereby allowing the latter to thrive and in turn cause more fear in the patient and her family.


Seeberg, J. (2019). Fear of Drug-resistant Tuberculosis as Social Contagion. Journal of Anthropology, 85(4), 665-678.
Geographies India

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