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Ethnographic survey of animal markets and bushmeat in Phnom Penh


Debates about emerging infectious diseases often oppose natural conceptions of zoonotic reservoirs with cultural practices bringing humans into contact with animals. This article compares the representations of cross-species pathogens at ontological levels below the opposition between nature and culture. It describes the perceptions of distinctions between interiority and physicality, between wild and domestic, and between sick and dead in three different conteAs part of the program “Regulating Wetmarkets: Ethnographic Study of the Perception of Zoonotic Risks after the Covid-19 Crisis” (RegWet), this survey will study Asian wetmarkets as places of interspecies interactions, where new viruses possibly emerge. Dr. Morvans’ aim is to understand how SARS-Cov 2 has changed the perception of zoonotic risks in urban areas where consumers can buy wild animals. Cambodia is a place of particular interest because of the presence of a close relative to SARS-Cov 2, recently identified by the Pasteur Institute, circulating among different types of local horseshoe bats (genus Rhinolophus). The ethnographic enquiry will be focusing on the city of Phnom Penh, home of the most important market in Cambodia and where regional food supplies enter an urban setting. The markets’ spatial organisation will be studied in terms of relations between different species, how the animals are put in contact, and how consumers, merchants, and farmers, are interacting with the various species (dead or alive), during the duration of the market. A study of animal and disease perception will be undertaken, considering both medicinal uses and representations as well as biosecurity risks. The movement of animal species between farms or their natural environments, and city markets, will also be explored, with an emphasis on bats. Traditional medicinal practices and local knowledge on animals will be central elements of the research.The research will be undertaken in collaboration with The ZooCov program led by Véronique Chevalier (Cirad) in collaboration with Institut Pasteur Cambodge (IPC). It aims to provide new knowledge on wild meat trade chains in Cambodia, document the diversity of beta-CoVs circulating through these chains, and develop a flexible and integrated early-detection system of viral spill-over events. The program implements sociological, epidemiological and virological surveys in two provinces of Cambodia through direct observations and dedicated questionnaires. The ZooCov and RegWet programs are both founded through ANR flash covid-19 and share the common objective of understanding the link between animal consumption and the emergence of zoonosis.


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