Next webinar 2 February

On 2 February at 1600 CET, Marama Muru-Lanning, University of Auckland, will present: Hongi (pressing of noses), Harirū (handshakes) and Hau (sharing breath): In the time of COVID-19.

When COVID-19 arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand, Māori responded quickly. It had become evident that kaumātua (older Māori men and women) would be especially vulnerable to the virus, given their age, living situations and often compromised health. Local hauora (health providers) and tribal leaders were active, advising Māori communities to modify social engagement practices and restrict hongi (pressing of noses), kihi (kisses), and harirū (handshakes). Our study sought to find out about kaumātua understandings of COVID-19 and pandemics, their experiences of lockdown and subsequent alert levels, and their roles within Māori communities in relation to tikanga (protocols) around social distancing (hongi, harirū and hau, or breath) and gatherings, particularly tangihanga (death and mourning rites).

Kaumātua have key leadership responsibilities within Māori communities and have been crucial in curbing the spread of COVID-19. Our ongoing research in the Tai Tokerau (Northland) and Waikato regions is interested in how kaumātua navigate the challenges still presented by COVID-19 in-light of evolving advice and regulations regarding personal distancing, self-isolation and gatherings.

Drawing on rich kōrero from our interviews I will share findings from our study that have assisted Māori communities, policy makers and health providers.

Marama Muru-Lanning is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and the Co-director of the James Henare Māori Research Centre at the University of Auckland. Her research is dedicated to transdisciplinary research with Māori communities that prioritises equity and social justice. As a social anthropologist she focuses on the cultural specificity of tangata whenua groups and their unique sense of place and belonging in Aotearoa. What distinguishes Marama internationally as a social scientist is her specialisation in four interrelated areas of research: 1. Water; 2. Human-environment relationships; relationships; 3. Mātauranga; 4. Transdisciplinary research methods. Over the past five years she has also developed a passion and advanced new approaches and methods for researching kaumātua (Māori elders) with colleagues from the James Henare Māori Research Centre.

Marama is an advisory board member of the Social Science Meets Biology: Indigenous People and Severe Influenza Outcomes – CAS – project and will visit the project group in Oslo 1-12 February 2023.

Marama is from Tūrangawaewae Marae in Ngāruawahia, this place is a potent living memorial to the many Waikato people taken by the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. She has whakapapa that connects her to Waikato, Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Whātua.

Contact for a Zoom link.

Spring Webinar Series Begins!

On Thursday, 19 January, at 1600 CET, Taylor P. van Doren, Sitka Sound Science Center, will present: “Risk perception, resilience, and future population health challenges due to COVID-19 in Southeast Alaska.”

It has been broadly observed that Indigenous communities worldwide suffer greater negative outcomes than non-Indigenous populations in the same region, but there has not been a lot of work to elevate the experiences of experiencing a pandemic from the perspective of Indigenous people themselves. Over the course of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sitka Sound Science Center and its collaborators, the Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and the RAND Corporation, collected 22 in-depth interviews with Alaska Native individuals from three island communities in Southeast Alaska to better understand how these people (and their towns) perceived the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic and how they leaned on culturally-grounded, community-centered behaviors to mitigate those risks and display considerable resilience in the face of the pandemic threat. Through additional original data sources gathered during the course of the pandemic, I will explore some of the quantitative data that supports the ethnographic research, and think about paths forward for community-centered pandemic research in rural Southeast Alaska to expand our knowledge of how people experience pandemics.

Contact for a link.

Announcing the Spring 2023 Webinar Series

We are so pleased that the PANSOC webinar series continues to be successful and will return next semester! As usual, they will be held on Thursdays at 1600 CET (Oslo time). See below for dates, speakers and tentative titles, and contact for the zoom link.


19 January: Taylor P. van Doren, Sitka Sound Science Center: “Risk perception, resilience, and future population health challenges due to COVID-19 in Southeast Alaska.”

2 February: Marama Muru-Lanning, Associate Professor and Director of the James Henare Māori Research Centre, University of Auckland: Title TBD

16 February: Mikaela Adams, University of Mississippi: “Influenza in Indian Country: Indigenous Sickness and Federal Responsibility during the 1918-1920 Pandemic.”

2 March: Luissa Vahedi, Washington University in St. Louis: COVID-19 and Violence against Women and Girls: Understanding Synergies, Long-term Consequences, and Lessons Learned for a More Equitable Future.”

16 March: Elisa Perego, University College London, “Long Covid: history, research, future challenges.”

23 March: Helga E. Bories-Sawala, University of Bremen: “The forgotten pandemic that created today’s America. A look at the history textbooks of Québec.”

30 March: Emma Tinker-Fortel, University of Missouri: Title TBD [Alaska Native mortality during the 1918 flu]

20 April: Courtney Heffernan, University of Alberta: “Tuberculosis in Indigenous communities in Canada – where have we come from, where are we going.”

27 April: Marcia Anderson, Vice-Dean, Indigenous Health, University of Manitoba: Title TBD.

Final fall webinar

On 1 December at 1600 CET, Tobias A. Jopp and Mark Spoerer, University of Regensburg, will present “Tracing the temporal and spatial course of the Spanish flu in Germany.” Contact for a link.

Abstract: Compared to its tremendous impact, the Spanish flu of 1918-20 is notoriously poorly studied. Based on newly collected mortality data specifically for the female population (not “contaminated” by battlefield casualties), we calculate monthly all-cause excess mortality for the first three waves of the pandemic for 42 German regions. We define a measure of the intensity of the Spanish flu’s incidence on the regional level and examine various impact factors in a regression framework which include distance from the Western Front (from where the flu came), population density, agricultural labour share, female labour force participation in the industrial sector, and density of the railway network.

This will be the last webinar this semester, but stay tuned for next semester’s calendar!

Webinar videos

Catch up on the latest two PANSOC webinars:

Heather Battles, The University of Auckland, “A historical syndemic? Measles and scarlet fever in goldfields-era Victoria”:

Esyllt Jones, University of Manitoba, “Contested Concepts of Borders and Containment in the Great Influenza Pandemic Era in Canada” :

Other past videos can be found here:

Next PANSOC Webinar

Esyllt Jones, University of Manitoba, will present: “Contested Concepts of Borders and Containment in the Great Influenza Pandemic Era in Canada” on 17 November at 1600 CET. Contact for a link.

In Canada, as in other constitutionally federal systems, the response to pandemic influenza was highly decentralized and variable. Local-level tensions emerged over spatial boundaries and containment, and public trust in non-pharmaceutical interventions could not be assumed. In the post-pandemic era, public health searched for a new paradigm. The pandemic strengthened a shift from compulsion to cooperation. However, diverse public perceptions of what a functioning public health system should accomplish and how revealed those struggles over legitimacy and authority that characterize major disease outbreaks historically, including COVID-19. What were the ‘lessons’ of the pandemic? Whether and in what ways the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic shaped public health and disease containment over the longer term is still in many ways an unanswered question.


Esyllt W. Jones (PhD, FRSC) is the Humanities Research Professor in the Faculty of Arts, and Professor in the Departments of History and Community Health Sciences, at the University of Manitoba. She is a historian of infectious disease and society, and the history of movements for socialized medicine. Her books include Influenza 1918: Disease, Death and Struggle in Winnipeg (2007), Epidemic Encounters: Influenza, Society and Culture in Canada (2012) edited with Madga Fahrni, and Radical Medicine: the International Origins of Socialized Health Care in Canada (2019). The volume Medicare’s Histories: Origins, Opportunities, and Omissions in Canada, edited with James Hanley and Delia Gavrus, was released in June 2022.

November 3 Webinar

Heather Battles, The University of Auckland, will present the next PANSOC webinar: “A historical syndemic? Measles and scarlet fever in goldfields-era Victoria” on November 3 at 1600 Oslo time (remember our clocks “fall back” on October 30!). Contact for a link.

How do we identify a historical syndemic? In Roberts & Battles (2021), we identified a series of synchronous epidemics of measles and scarlet fever in Victoria, Australia between 1853 to 1876, suggesting a synergistic relationship. We explored this synergy, its emergence, and ending in the context of the 1850s-70s gold-mining boom and post-boom changes in fertility, mortality, and housing infrastructure, pointing to the importance of social conditions in disease evolution. This talk will build on this and discuss work-in-progress on the use of a quantitative method to test for presence of a syndemic effect. 

Heather Battles (PhD 2013, McMaster University) is a Lecturer in Biological Anthropology at The University of Auckland in Aotearoa New Zealand. Her research interests centre on applying a biocultural approach to understanding the evolution and ecology of infectious diseases in human populations and their impacts (biological and social). She specializes in historical epidemics and emerging and re-emerging infections.