Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences


Book launch: Unmasked: COVID, Community and the Case of Okoboji.

18 May 2022, 4:30 pm–6:00 pm

Book cover for Unmasked with a white face covering on blue background with title, author and quote

Join us for this launch event of Emily Mendenhall's - Unmasked: COVID, Community and the Case of Okoboji.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to

UCL staff | UCL students






SHS Health, Mind and Society

Open to UCL Staff and Students

Unmasked: COVID, Community and the Case of Okoboji. Vanderbilt University Press by Emily Mendenhall, Georgetown University, Washington DC.

Unmasked is the story of what happened in Okoboji, a small Iowan tourist town, when a collective turn from the coronavirus to the economy occurred in the COVID summer of 2020. State political failures, local negotiations among political and public health leaders, and community (dis)belief about the virus resulted in Okoboji being declared a hotspot just before the Independence Day weekend, when an influx of half a million people visit the town.

The story is both personal and political. Author Emily Mendenhall, an anthropologist at Georgetown University, grew up in Okoboji, and her family still lives there. As the events unfolded, Mendenhall was in Okoboji, where she spoke formally with over 100 people and observed a community that rejected public health guidance, revealing deep-seated mistrust in outsiders and strong commitments to local thinking. Unmasked is a fascinating and heartbreaking account of where people put their trust, and how isolationist popular beliefs can be in America's small communities.

Order a copy of the book here : https://www.vanderbiltuniversitypress.com/9780826504524/unmasked/

Enter 15PRE for a 40% discount.

Chaired by Sahra Gibbon (UCL Anthropology) with comments from Megan Vaughan (UCL IAS), Cathy Elliott (UCL Political Science) and Caroline Garaway (UCL Anthropology).

Supported by UCL Social and Historical Sciences Health, Mind and Society Strategic Initiative.