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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
September 2022
Print publication year:
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Creative Commons:
Creative Common License - CC Creative Common License - BY Creative Common License - NC Creative Common License - ND
This content is Open Access and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

Book description

The COVID-19 crisis has transformed the highly specialized issue of what constitutes reliable medical evidence into a topic of public concern and debate. This book interrogates the assumption that evidence means the same thing to different constituencies and in different contexts. Rather than treating various practices of knowledge as rational or irrational in purely scientific terms, it explains the controversies surrounding COVID-19 by drawing on a theoretical framework that recognizes different types of rationality, and hence plural conceptualizations of evidence. Debates within and beyond the medical establishment on the efficacy of measures such as mandatory face masks are examined in detail, as are various degrees of hesitancy towards vaccines. The authors demonstrate that it is ultimately through narratives that knowledge about medical and other phenomena is communicated to others, enters the public space, and provokes discussion and disagreements. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.


‘Deploying a nuanced analytical framework to tackle the social complexity of evidentiary truth, Engebretsen and Baker bring sociological order and meaning to the apparent incoherencies of collective and individual action in times of crisis. An exemplary illustration of how social science can confidently illuminate the social dimensions of truth-making without undermining its own epistemic coherence.’

Inanna Hamati-Ataya - University of Cambridge

‘In this readable, incisive analysis of recent history, Engebretsen and Baker critically revisit, expand and update Fisher’s narrative paradigm for the 21st century. Evident throughout is the urgent relevance of stories not only for how we make sense of the world but for how we must imaginatively configure new and hopeful stories for effective, transformative politics.’

Sue-Ann Harding - Queen’s University Belfast

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Full book PDF
  • Rethinking Evidence in the Time of Pandemics
    pp i-ii
  • Copyright page
    pp iv-iv
  • Contents
    pp v-vi
  • Tables and Figures
    pp vii-vii
  • Acknowledgements
    pp viii-viii
  • Chapter 1 - Evidence in Times of Crisis
    pp 1-7
  • Chapter 2 - Narrative Rationality and the Logic of Good Reasons
    pp 8-27
  • Chapter 3 - Whose Evidence? What Rationality? The Face Mask Controversy
    pp 28-44
  • Chapter 4 - Whose Lives? What Values? Herd Immunity, Lockdowns and Social/Physical Distancing
    pp 45-60
  • References
    pp 92-102
  • Index
    pp 103-108


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