The Politics and Anthropology of Violence and Epidemics (PAVE) team are an anthropological led team including social scientists, political theorists, epidemiologists, and modellers. The team is based at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with collaborations at University of Oxford, Anthrologica and the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (University of Sierra Leone), Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC), Centre for Applied Policy Research and Innovation Sierra Leone (CAPRI) (African collaborations). Working in an innovative cross-disciplinary approach we address two public health problems: violence (structural and interpersonal) and epidemics (HIV, Ebola and COVID-19) and the intersections between them. 


Epidemics and experiences of violence tend to be studied as separate issues, leading to analytical blindspots on the intersections between them. Emphasis on individual behaviour or attitudes in outbreak response measures, for example, often obscures how histories of structural violence and conflict  impact the ways in which nations, communities and individuals can respond to and prepare for epidemics. Similarly, patterns of disease transmission and the socio-economic effects of epidemic control interventions have significant implications for the incidence and nature of interpersonal and political violence.


Our work draws on debates in the anthropology of epidemics and humanitarian emergencies; social science perspectives on medical research; anthrpology of violence within conceptual framing of  the future (uncertainty, hope, destiny, anticipaton) and of power (structure, agency, bio-citizenship). We argue for the importance of anthropological perspectives in interventions to reduce violence and in biomedical responses to epidemics (including clinical trials and medical humanitarian response). We are at the forefront of debates on the importance of engaging with beneficiaries in the development and conduct of public health research.


In our research we aim to:

  1. Understand the political, economic, social and historical conditions that lead to violence and epidemics, and the relationship between them, in specific contexts

  2. Explore local narratives and experiences of violence and epidemics to inform public health interventions 

  3. Develop effective ways in which to engage with communities and publics around research, public health response and policy

  4. Develop innovative and truly interdisciplinary approaches to produce holistic analyses of violence and epidemic dynamics and to contribute to developing practical solutions 

  5. Develop and build-on pre-existing technologies for collection and analysis of qualitative data in challenging settings


We conduct interdisciplinary  research on violence and epidemics, and the intersections between them, taking a number of perspectives including: political economy, feminist and medical anthropology, One Health, health/help seeking, decolonising knowledge and and community-led research. We have a growing research portfolio that has two overarching themes (Epidemic Preparedness and Response and Gender-based and Intimate Partner Based Violence). Given the need to ensure that social science research informs policy in urgent public health measures to address violence and epidemics we are members of the following groups


  • Global Shared Research Agenda Global Expert Group (Sexual Violence Research Innitiative) (Shelley Lees)

  • COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition co Chair Social Science working group (setting up June 2020) (Shelley Lees, David Kaawa Mafigiri co Chairs, Luisa Enria)

  • WHO Operational Social Science Research Working Group (OSSRWG). This is a new working group which is designed to be a platform to support response actors and social sciences researchers operating in humanitarian and public health emergency contexts under the COVID-19 pandemic to better generate and use evidence for more accountable and effective response (of COVID-19 and secondary impacts) interventions (Shelley Lees)

  • WHO COVID-19 Research Roadmap Social Science working group. This has involved developing a set of objectives for social science research for COVID-19 (Shelley Lees)

  • Co-chair of the WHO GOARN R social science research group. This involves contributing to developments in social science research in epidemic planning and response.GOARN R is coordinated by WHO and governed by a steering committee (Shelley Lees)

  • NIHR Global Health Community Engagement and Involvement (CEI) Advisory Network – This involves providing advice on effective community engagement for NIHR funded studies (Shelley Lees)

  • Co-Lead of the One Health Commission Infectious Diseases & Social Science Unit (Alex Bowmer)