Reconstructing Social Networks and Connections in Indigenous Tribes: An Analysis of Countermeasures to COVID-19 among Rural Tribes in Taiwan




COVID-19 Pandemic, Indigenous Tribes, Social Networks, Taiwan


Since the first outbreak of COVID-19 in December 2019, numerous countries have experienced waves of outbreaks that have had severe social, economic, and political effects. Many medical and anthropological studies have suggested that tribes and elders in rural and indigenous villages became isolated from the outside world due to a lack of resources and because of cultural constraints. On January 22, 2020, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Taiwan was discovered. As of October 23, 2022, 7,476,478 confirmed cases have been reported; of these, only 64,298 were in Taitung County, making it the region with the fewest cases in Taiwan. In this ethnographic study, I visited indigenous tribes in Taiwan that were less affected during the pandemic, conducted in-depth interviews with tribal-care providers, and collected secondary data from reports and social media regarding pandemic prevention on tribes in Taitung County. I also explored the difficulties created by the suspension of tribal-care services due to pandemic-related social distancing and isolation measures, and how care providers overcame these challenges. COVID-19 is not the first and nor will it be the last virus to threaten humans. Thus, it is important to gain insight into how care networks and connections were rebuilt through innovative measures that enabled tribal elders to receive culturally sensitive care and maintain their health during the pandemic.


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