Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

Vaccine opposition in the information age: a study on online activism and DIY citizenship

Uberti, Francesca (2022) Vaccine opposition in the information age: a study on online activism and DIY citizenship. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

[img] Text - Submitted Version
Download (3MB)
Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004548


Vaccination critics have been at the forefront of much recent media commentary, and ever more so after the spread of COVID-19 and the implementation of vaccination programmes to tackle the pandemic. However, vaccination critics had attracted the attention of academics, media commentators and public health institutions in the years preceding the pandemic. My research relies upon data collected pre-pandemic, focusing specifically on online activism targeting routine childhood vaccinations. While seeking to understand internet-mediated vaccine-critical activism, this thesis addresses the following research questions: how do online vaccine critics construct knowledge that feeds into vaccination controversies? What kind of values underlie vaccine critics’ policy demands, and how are these demands advocated for? How do critics understand and represent their collective identities? Finally, and most importantly for my study, how do online vaccine critics engage with their surrounding legal landscapes? Drawing upon an analysis of qualitative data from more than 700 posts linked to six vaccine-critical blogs, collected during nine months of fieldwork informed by an internet-ethnographic approach, I suggest that online vaccine-critical activism needs to be understood as a complex phenomenon embedded in its socio-legal context. While vaccine critics are often depicted as an anti-establishment force, I contend that their relationship with the law in particular is more complex than that. Rather than merely ‘resisting’ the law, vaccine-critical activists mobilise and co-opt different legal discourses and concepts in intricate and sometimes surprising ways. Vaccine-critical activism is an historically persistent phenomenon which if misunderstood risks further alienating current activists and potentially aggravating the issue of vaccine hesitancy. Investigating vaccine critics’ online practices and learning more about their shared worldviews is therefore important (and has become even more so in the light of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic) in order to frame effective public health communications about vaccine safety.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Francesca Uberti
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
K Law > K Law (General)
Q Science > Q Science (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Sets: Departments > Law
Supervisor: Jackson, Emily and Mulcahy, Linda

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics