It’s been several weeks since we launched our special online series of essays and photo-essays; engaging with the pandemic in the real-time of its making. Our aim has been to document the thoughts (and lived-experience) of authors and artists from diverse locations, cultural/political contexts and from different intellectual perspectives.
Below you will find a list of the articles published to date. More to come over the next few weeks.
Jeffrey Alexander (Covid/Floyd), Jonny Steinberg (Sovereignty in South Africa), Warwick Anderson (Death in Bondi), Beth Vale (The Virus in the Queues), Charlie Veric (Praying in the Pandemic) offer local perspectives with a global relevance.
by Peter Beilharz and Sian Supski (Melbourne)
Covid-19 has taken over the world, taken over everything including our waking everyday lives, our dreamlives, our scholarship and future institutional funding logistics. Our friend and collaborator from Jozi, Peter Vale, provoked this special project in insisting that we must respond, call out members of our global network and others to respond to – think and write – this crisis.
by Ian Collard (Melbourne)
We invited Ian to close this project for us, using a song with a message – ‘Help Me’. This is the last post on this series, to be followed by a coda next week . Thanks, meantime, to Ian for playing us out, and thanks to all our contributors, to all those who have helped us and each other in these terrible times.
by Johanna Cilano Pelaez (Mexico)
While COVID-19 has impacted all of Latin America, Cuba has faced it from its own particular situation. The state’s ability to control the main resources of the economy and regulate social behaviour – important for the implementation of mitigating measures at a pandemic juncture – goes hand in hand with the absence of a rule of law and the lack of mechanisms of participation to reduce the arbitrariness of power.
by Craig Calhoun (Tempe, Arizona)
The disaster in America points to hard truths about Covid that matter everywhere. Covid strikes rich countries as well as poor, powerful as well as weak. Vulnerability that does not map neatly onto old divisions of developed from underdeveloped or imperialist from post-colonial. Its impact is shaped by pre-existing social conditions and it is uneven inside each country as well as internationally. Politics readily compromises response and sometimes all but completely derails it.
by Michel Wieviorka (Paris)
How to think about the post-pandemic? This is not a simple question. The phenomenon is global, since it concerns the whole world, but its treatment is mainly national, with considerable differences from one country to another. The pandemic is not static but moving. Paradoxically it may well be long-lasting, since we do not know if and when humanity as a whole, but also specific countries, will be able to stop living with the pandemic, and precisely envisage emerging from it.
by Phumlani Pikoli (Johannesburg)
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world has been in a state of panic, fearing the unprecedented times we face. The idea that the pandemic has induced some pre-pubescent existential crisis is laughable, however.
As the world has been forced to sit and reckon with its own systemic failures and global structures of existence the real crisis is, ‘what does it mean to be a human supporting the failed system of global capitalism’? After all, is democracy not a rich person’s game?
by Simon Marginson
The Covid-19 pandemic is instructive for social theory. It is like a gigantic experiment. It is not a controlled experiment, but a universal condition that enables differentiation on the basis of time and space, both geographical and discursive. It is possible to compare society before and during the pandemic, and also to compare the political and social evolutions and manifestations of society-under-pandemic-conditions in different nations and regions.
by Tawana Kupe (Pretoria)
Drawing from both traditions, universities are trying understand how it was that science largely missed the signs of Covid’s coming, and so fulfil their obligation to secure the long-term future of humanity on this planet.
But they know, too, that the university must rise to the immediate challenges of global health, education and economic crises; job losses; poverty; and the overriding sense of uncertainty and insecurity. These all existed pre-Covid, of course, but the pandemic has aggravated each with knock-on effects.
An online workshop on “Living in Crisis” organized by the TASA Social Theory thematic group and Thesis Eleven.
Speakers: Deborah Lupton, Craig Calhoun, Peter Vale and Peter Beilharz
by Alonso Casanueva Baptista
The secretariat of public education in Mexico – the institution in charge of the standardized schooling practices there – organized for the current semester to take place via radio, internet, but most importantly, television. From August 24th to the end of the school year (July 2021), thirty million Mexican students will enrol in school whilst relying on technologies that usually do not play a central role in their formal learning experiences. The written word will be overtaken by waves, signals, and connections.
by Timothy Andrews
In the current pandemic, we find ourselves in a similar situation to that of Virginia Woolf’s audience in Between the Acts. Forced into our homes as a result of lockdown measures, a mirror is held up to us so that we can see the intimacy of our lives under the stark light of history unfolding in the present. Like Woolf’s audience, we too are on the cusp of a new era.
I can’t wait to see what it’s like on the outside now: a postcard from quarantine in downtown São Paulo
by Isabela Capovilla Romanetto and Matheus Capovilla Romanetto
That it was possible to dream in more depth is immediately related to how much more silent the city became. This is not only an effect of the absence of people on the streets, but also of changes in the mobility system, which for some time had less buses, and generally less cars around. Downtown São Paulo is an enemy of dream life.
by Tim Soutphommasane and Marc Stears (Sydney)
For the most part, the Australian government’s response has been effective in suppressing the numbers of infection since the virus was detected here in March 2020. There are, however, signs that we are now seeing a more worrying new phase of conservative ideological ascendency in Australia.
by Andrew Simon Gilbert
It has become increasingly common over recent years for academics to declare a “crisis of trust” in Western institutions. One of the main points of this crisis has been the healthcare system, with eroding trust in doctors and the institutions of biomedicine apparently evident in surveys, as well as the proliferation of “anti-vaxxer” ideology and people’s willingness to second-guess health professionals
by Alex Oelofse
Cape Town is a city of astonishing beauty and contradiction. It is tough, beautiful, relaxed and edgy in different proportions. The god’s eye view by drone of this austere beauty leaves us wondering, in awe, of how life goes on the ground, and when it might return to its own version of normal.
by Peter Newman
Then we turned the corner of a new decade with raging bushfires in Australia, and the unleashing of a frightening new pandemic. Could this be the crisis that would creatively lead to a new green economy as I optimistically suggested and have written much about for most of this century?
by Emily Floyd
New Wages For Students: A poster after Lotta Feminista is a Print on Demand artwork by Emily Floyd, especially for the T11 Living and Thinking Crisis series
by Howard Prosser
Camus is back. The Plague is everywhere. Its brave everyday characters resonate with our ideal selves, our care workers, and our belief in a possible ending to the global pandemic. But his allegory also highlights how exclusionary politics is always an option. Our city selves are vulnerable – to plague, to authority – in spite of our desire not to be. Outbreaks remain possible. They can get out of control. Liberalism is not immune to tyranny.
by Ira Raja
In the weeks that followed the announcement of the lockdown, the Government of India, not unlike governments elsewhere, issued several rules and decrees, all purportedly aimed at containing the contagion through non-violent measures or what the Indian PM called ‘the people’s curfew’. But the biopolitical measure of the lockdown, meant to illustrate the mechanism of making (rather than letting) live, was beset from the beginning by a range of contradictions.
by Michael Marder
The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 is an effect of definite (objective) causal chains. Nonetheless, the way it is called upon to serve as the blueprint for a transition to an ecologically sensitive life is spurious, purely accidental. Accidents may, of course, be of at least two types: random events that do not presuppose an actor at all and unforeseen effects of an action that is deliberate. How does SARS-CoV-2 fit within this scheme?
by Gianpaolo Baiocchi
Living through the extended pandemic and its still unfolding aftermaths has been sobering for those of us who understand ourselves as critical scholars in the social sciences. Events have unleashed fast-evolving social demands, from #cancelrent to #defundthepolice that dialogue with the very same radical theory that we write and teach, and yet we have struggled to respond to this radicalism meaningfully, particularly as it pertains to radical possibility
by Mark Harrison
The political meaning of the virus is contending constantly with its biological realities. But as its transmission has slowed in Asia, it is leaving behind newly calcified traces of the long-standing enmities, political compromises and aspirations of different modernist visions set in place in the early 20th century history of modernisation in Asia.