Critical reflections on pandemic politics: left-wing, feminist and anti-racist critiques
As various formats of lockdown to contain the Covid-19 virus in many nations across the world continue into their second year, there is an urgent need to critically analyze this situation and its historical backdrop from more traditionally left-oriented perspectives. This urgent need is likewise required in light of the more recent global vaccine rollouts and various digital health pass mandates that have followed as a supposed ‘way out’ of the lockdown logic. Such lockdowns, health pass mandates, and blanket vaccine rollouts clearly attempt to posit some kind of ‘public good’ or ‘solidarity’ over more individualist considerations; sentiments which on the surface appear to be benevolent and even left-oriented. And yet, critiques of the reproduction and exacerbation of old and new forms of power as well as of in- and exclusion which are just as much the hallmark of the left, have scarcely been addressed under the weight of this rhetoric of ‘public good’ or ‘solidarity’. For instance, even though lockdowns have already quite obviously led to unevenly distributed psycho-social damage, and has exacerbated various economic vault-lines between marginalized and privileged groups locally and world-wide, vocal criticisms have so far largely emerged from economistic and right-oriented perspectives that merely espouse a superficial or neoliberal vocabulary of individual freedoms.
Similarly, mandatory vaccinations and health passports lead to obvious forms of exclusion from everyday social life and movement; yet here too, displays of public resistance against these injustices emanate largely from right-wing groups by appealing to superficial liberal sentiments – sentiments which these groups, while surely attempting to channel class struggle, usually fail to apply to other existing forms of in- and exclusion such as sexism and racism. This is unfortunate, not in the least because this entire crisis situation runs the risk of being politically appropriated for right-wing or economically conservative ends, but also because ongoing left-wing silence might become implicated in lockdown violence, health-pass hierarchies, and abuses of bodily integrity of all kinds. Even if the division between ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ is not always so neatly drawn – as the multi-various discourse of ‘freedom’ also illustrates – this expert meeting nonetheless invites participants to address lockdown, vaccine mandates, and health-pass politics from a multitude of left-wing, critical, feminist and anti-racist perspectives in an attempt to open up the debate around the political, mediatized, and social reactions to the pandemic and its outflows.
Paper proposals may address, but are not limited to, the following topics:
- Lockdown as pre- or proto- totalitarian
- Lockdown and the inadequacy of left-wing versus right-wing terminology and politics
- Lockdowns, vaccine rollouts and digital health apps, and their relation to global neoliberal capitalism
- Lockdown, covid-19 dashboards and pandemic modelling, and scientific (post)modernity, hypermodernity or technocracy
- Feminist and anti-racist critiques of lockdown and health passes as exacerbating gendered and raced disenfranchisement and disadvantage
- Lockdown and health passes, and theories of biopower, health optimization, dataveillance and necropolitics
- Critical histories of medical policing, population management and disease containment
- Critiques of the roles of biometrics, predictive technologies, data visualizations and dashboards in lockdown and vaccine politics
- The pandemic as (scientific and media) simulation
- Government propaganda and censorship around lockdown and vaccination
- Lockdown and the changing landscape of higher education: problems and opportunities for pedagogy and research
- The acquiescence and complicities of universities and other national and supra-national institutions
- The role of mass and social media in anti- or pro-lockdown or vaccine propaganda, political polarization and forms of media virality (eg. via covid-19 memes)
- Lockdown as privileged or elite strategy
- Mandatory vaccine rollouts as assaults to the feminist appeal to bodily autonomy
- Lockdown and health passes, and their impacts on communities of care
- Affective aspects of lockdown: fear (eg. thanatophobia), hope, despair, anger, depression, exhaustion, arrogance, dissociation, trauma reactions
- Lockdown and vaccine development science and politics as performances of masculinity
- Ethical considerations regarding mass experimentation, moral shaming and lateral citizen surveillance
- The symbolic politics of lockdown (eg. virtue signaling)
- Christian eschatological and apocalyptic narratives and lockdown
- Teleological and theological narratives of science as salvation (eg. via vaccinations)
- Left-wing or more equitable alternatives to lockdown (eg. feminist care ethics)
- Lockdown discourse and the family
- Lockdown discourse and ‘the home’ (eg. political assumptions about the base unit of polity being biological families who live together in the home)
- The appropriation of health pass systems for perverse political ends
We welcome more general or abstract theoretical critiques, as well as more detailed, situated, or highly contextualized work, for instance within the histories of specific nation-states. The
expert meeting aims to assemble a selection of papers in an edited volume on the topic, as well as potentially generate local policy recommendations.
Please send a short abstract of 150-200 words accompanied by a 50-word author bio to: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com by Friday 11 February 2022. The meeting itself will take place on Wednesday 9 March 2022. More details on the exact location and expert meeting programme will follow in due time.
This expert meeting is the first one of a series of three meetings, and part of a larger transdisciplinary research project on Covid-19 politics titled “Towards a Pandemic-Proof University.” This project explores how scientists and citizens, also and especially from various marginalized backgrounds, can be involved in processes of co-creation in order to enhance common understanding of the pandemic and improve policy interventions. Transdisciplinary research traditions like Complexity Thinking and Science & Technology Studies indicate that ‘wicked problems’ like the pandemic require innovative collaborations between a wide range of actors with different societal positions and from different ‘regimes of justification’, so that scientific and other forms of value-charged knowledge can engage in fruitful dialogue. Knowledge derived from the expert meetings will be summarized and translated to other stakeholders in follow-up meetings, who will then be asked to critically respond from their own expertise.