Anthropology / Everything Human

Why Face Masks Are Going Viral


  • Phenomenon

    coronavirus mask - A discount market on Penang Island, Malaysia, displays a face mask on a mannequin. Surgical masks are unregulated and provide minimal protection from pathogens.

    Why Face Masks Are Going Viral

    As the new coronavirus epidemic spreads, more and more people are wearing surgical masks—despite their questionable effectiveness. An anthropologist explores the reasons why.

  • Counterpoint

    In Andean countries such as Peru and Bolivia, locals and tourists drink mate de coca, a tea made from coca leaves, to stave off altitude sickness.

    The Double Life of Coca

    In South America, countries struggle to protect traditional uses of coca while decreasing its currency in the addiction- and crime-addled cocaine trade.