Tag Archives: Anthropology

Pfizer and the Sovereign: Cuba’s COVID19 vaccine offers an interesting counterpoint to the Pfizer roll-out in the US

By Naomi Schoenfeld

(December 21) – As 2020 draws to a close, the COVID19 pandemic rages on, yet, undoubtedly, we have entered a distinct phase as a number of countries now begin or plan for mass distribution and administration of newly developed vaccines. As of this writing, there are six approved vaccines and over 50 candidates in development (Craven, 2020, WHO 2020). In the UK, the NHS recently started administering the Pfizer BioNTech mRNA vaccine, and the US followed suit one week later. COVID19 vaccine development has reinvigorated a certain type of vaccine nationalism not seen for decades. Each vaccine or candidate gets a particular pedigree, narrative and aura of trustworthiness according to its origins. The vaccines and candidates are a mix of private-sector developed or public/private partnership, with only a few candidates from universities or the public sector (WHO, 2020). In Cuba’s state-run socialist biopharmaceutical system, their new COVID19 vaccine, called Soberana or “The Sovereign,” is effortlessly enfolded into a long-standing national narrative of vaccine prowess. Continue reading

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This day in 1919: Exposure of Washington’s academics as spies

Franz Boas (1858-1942)

Franz Boas (1858-1942)


Originally published on December 20, 2014

1919 (20 December): Under the heading “Scientists as Spies,” The Nation, a liberal journal based in New York, published on this date a letter by Franz Boas, the father of academic anthropology in the United States. Boas was one of the most prominent opponents of the then popular pseudo-science of eugenics and “scientific racism”, the fascist concept that race is a biological concept and that human behaviour is best understood through the typology of biological characteristics and not social and cultural factors.

Boas publicly charged that four American anthropologists, whom he did not name, had abused their professional research positions by conducting espionage in Central America for the U.S. armed forces during the First World War – precisely when U.S. imperialism had aggressively occupied Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti and was conspiring against the Mexican Revolution. Boas strongly condemned their actions, writing that they had “prostituted science by using it as a cover for their activities as spies.” Continue reading

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