Dilip Menon (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Sunita Reddy (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India)
Fernando Resende (Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói / Rio de Janeiro, Brasil)
Gabi Alex (University of Tübingen, Germany)
The number of publications relating to what is called the current ‘coronacrisis’ is mounting up, not just in the medicine related fields but also in the Human and Social Sciences. As welcome as this is, it seems that many contributions work with established explanations and analytical schemes, thereby reproducing already existing insights and arguments. Without taking away any credit or appreciation from these debates, we want to try to go a different way, by asking: what is absolutely new about the situations people across the world are experiencing these days? This is also to stimulate a discussion about the conditions and presuppositions of our thinking, of our respective disciplinary or interdisciplinary lenses.
One of the emergent new issues is an expanded consciousness of interdependency. The pandemic binds individuals and groups, hitherto distant and unknown to each other, since to get it under control has to be a concerted global effort. This creates a new sociality, where formerly not connected groups and individuals find themselves in mutual dependencies. This sociality extends across species as human-human and human-animal distinctions have become more porous, as the virus jumps across these binaries.
Existing socialities have been disrupted as the politics of othering and blaming people from the margin while characteristic of pandemics, have been exacerbated. What are seemingly logical and simple prevention measures such as washing hands, keeping distance from other people, wearing a mask in public and avoiding crowds have created new divisions. The fact that the following of these seemingly easy prevention measures rules is linked to differences in lifeworlds and capabilities and privileges of different kinds is only slowly emerging in the public discourse.
Lockdown measures have disrupted ideas of work and labor; notions of family and community; and introduced new forms of precarious living. The lockdown in Asia, Europe and the USA has suddenly brought to the surface the exploitation as much as the dispensability of labor as also forefronted issues of race (USA), caste (South Asia) and religion (Europe). It has also alerted us to the inefficacy of states and public health systems as much as the brutalities of policing.