The Coronavirus as Nature-Culture

Talking about Agency

in Nature and Culture
Author:
Annette Schnabel Heinricht-Heine-University Duesseldorf, Germany schnabel@hhu.de

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Bettina Ülpenich Research Assistant, Heinricht-Heine-University Duesseldorf, Germany Bettina.Uelpenich@uni-duesseldorf.de

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Abstract

We analyze how the coronavirus is fabricated at the interface between science and the public in order to be addressable by political strategies. By means of a content analysis of Christian Drosten's podcasts, we follow (1) how SARS-CoV-2 is constructed in order to be understood by non-scientists, (2) how the specialist becomes a public expert, and (3) how this co-fabrication takes place. This provides insight into the “fabrication” of meaning and of how uncertainty is transformed into knowledge during times of major risk through focusing on the perception of the virus itself. Out of a perspective of speech act theory-informed assemblage thinking, the analysis emphasizes the role of the known-unknown and of the temporality of developments in formatting both virus and expert.

Contributor Notes

Annette Schnabel is Professor at the Department of Social Science at the Heinricht-Heine-University Duesseldorf. Her research interests cover questions of why people join social movements, how they form their national and religious identities, and how emotions and rational choices interact. The impact of political and social institutions and their formation form a second focal point of her empirical and theoretical research. Recent publications are: “Religion und ihre Einbettung in Verfassungen als Kontext” (together with L. Hönes), “The Cultural Code of Antifeminist Communication: Voicing Opposition to the ‘Feminist Zeitgeist,’” Acta Sociologica 2018 (together with H. Beyer and M. Lach), Theorien sozialer Bewegung, Campus-Verlag (2017, together with H. Beyer). Email: schnabel@hhu.de

Bettina Ülpenich works as a research assistant at the Department of Social Science at the Heinrich-Heine-University Duesseldorf. Her research interests cover subjects such as the sociology of categorization, human categorization, sociology of knowledge, and gender studies, using qualitative research methods in her projects. In 2020, she defended her dissertation “Die Konstruktion kategorialer Zugehörigkeit am Beispiel von Alterszuschreibungen” supervised by Prof. Annette Schnabel and Prof. Alexandra König. Email: Bettina.Uelpenich@uni-duesseldorf.de

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