Values vs. Vaccines: Contesting Covid in the Streets

Social scientists have documented an increasing trend in public rejection of science that challenges beliefs, values, and ideologies. Among the most contentious domains are climate change, genetic modification, vaccination—and now, the COVID-19 pandemic. Science skepticism is typically fueled by the motivation to defend a political or religious identity.[1]

Among like-minded individuals, communication of contrarian ideas and conspiracy theories is catalyzed by social media and selective exposure to other media sources.[2] But, the public debate about the pandemic is not taking place exclusively online. Opinions are also being expressed opportunistically in visible venues that are not as easily ignored as a fleeting tweet. Graffiti writers and street artists are addressing multiple ways that the pandemic poses a threat to cherished worldviews.

The pieces in this exhibit address factors that contribute to skepticism about COVID science, including distrust in government, reactance against limits to personal freedom, and opposition to vaccination. In some examples, the artist is expressing experienced threat, while in others the artist is calling for skeptical individuals to trust larger systems.


[1]   Bastiaan T. Rutjens, Sander van der Linden, and Romy van der Lee. “Science Skepticism in Times of COVID-19.” Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 24, no. 2 (February 2021): 276–83.

[2] Alessandro Bessi, Mauro Coletto, George Alexandru Davidescu, Antonio Scala, Guido Caldarelli, and Walter Quattrociocchi. “Science vs Conspiracy: Collective Narratives in the Age of Misinformation.” PLOS ONE (February 2015).