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The Pandemic Factor

The COVID-19 Crisis in the Alternative for Germany's 2021 Federal Election Campaign

Lars Rensmann and Thijs de Zee

Abstract

This article examines how and why the covid-19 pandemic featured as a central issue in the Alternative for Germany's 2021 Bundestag election campaign. Using a wide range of political communication tools, the radical right party's opposition to public health policies against the pandemic ranged from a critique of hygienic measures to hosting coronavirus denialism and conspiracy myths suggesting that “the elite” had manufactured “corona hysteria” to subjugate the German people. Mirroring its general radicalization process toward an anti-system movement party, the AfD's campaign primarily gave voice to an ideologically driven, conspiracist, and authoritarian-nationalist core electorate, which has its center of gravity in the East. In the environment of an emerging “pandemic divide,” the party also sought to appeal to a robust minority of corona skeptics. More generally, the AfD's campaign points to the still underresearched role of science denialism and conspiracy myths in radical right mobilizations of a counterfactual age.

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Flânerie in the Time of Covid-19

French Journalistic References to Bookstore Strolling and Fashion Walking

Marylaura Papalas

Abstract

Flânerie, or the practice of urban strolling described in nineteenth-century French print and visual culture, has evolved throughout modernity, expanding its reach into more global literary traditions and becoming an important topic of research in numerous fields of academic study. Various phenomena have shaped the evolution of how we walk in the city and how artists, essayists, and journalists record it, none more so than the forced lockdowns associated with the global Covid-19 pandemic. Journalists in France invented expressions like flânerie inversée, impossible flânerie, and librairie flânerie to describe new city practices. They looked to figures like the fashion flâneuse on the catwalk as a means of sublimating the stillness and monotony of the coronavirus confinement. This article traces the emergence between March 2020 and April 2021of these variations in shopping and fashion contexts, which underscore the enduring legacy of the practice and its everlasting presence in French culture.

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France in the Times of COVID-19

The Public Humanities as a Vaccine for Coexistence

Araceli Hernández-Laroche

Abstract

This article examines the role of the public humanities in France during Covid-19 for self-preservation, coping with isolation, understanding an upended world, creating a sense of connection and belonging, and cultivating empathy for others. For instance, in dealing with the existential angst of confinement and economic woes, one of the novels that resonated the most in France and globally was Albert Camus's The Plague. At the very moment that France enforced measures to restrict access to places of culture, many French people turned to the humanities for comfort and perspective. The pandemic accelerated the need for libraries, galleries, bookstores, museums, concert halls, opera houses, theaters, cinemas, and nightclubs, as well as places of dialogue like cafés and bistros. Dialogue and the cocreation of physical and virtual communities were needed as the spread of false information relating to science, vaccines, and nation exacerbated pre-pandemic divisions in French culture.

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Introduction

France in the Age of Covid-19

Éric Touya de Marenne

What does Covid-19 reveal about France today? What are its effects on culture, politics, and society? One of the contentions of this special issue is that measuring its impacts takes on full significance when approached in the context of other crises that have affected the nation in recent years. These include growing inequality and social and political division, and the rise of populism. This special issue examines how these existing predicaments shed light on the impact of Covid-19. It also seeks to explore ways through which we may give meaning to this tragic moment in French history through art and the public humanities.

Open access

Introduction

Religious Rituals’ Reflection of Current Social Conditions in the Middle East

Ingvild Flaskerud

Abstract

Peoples’ practising of religious ritual is never isolated from the social and political setting in which it takes place. It is therefore inevitable that ritual practice somehow contends with the current social context. Examining Muslim ritual practices across the Middle East, the authors of the articles in this special issue discuss religious ritual as a tool for accomplishing something in the real world. They provide examples of which social concerns are addressed in ritual practice, who is involved and how the ritual practice is affected. The studies show that current ritual practices are embedded in multi-actor social spaces, and they also reflect on the ritual as a multi-actor space where the power to define ritual form, meaning and importance shifts between different categories of actors.

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The Paris Opera Ballet Dancing Offstage

Work, Grace, and Race

Tessa Ashlin Nunn

Abstract

The spaces in which amateur and professional dancers practiced their art greatly changed during the Covid-19 pandemic due to the closures of theaters and dance studios, yet dance continued to bring people together online. This article studies the media presence of the Paris Opera Ballet (POB) between March 2020 and May 2021 to analyze how the aesthetic and moral concept of grace has evolved. During this difficult year, dance took on a therapeutic role as POB dancers offered free online classes and performed in video work, in addition to taking on a political role as discussions about racism in ballet sparked public debates.

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Political Ramifications of Covid-19

Inequalities, Divides, Populism

Éric Touya de Marenne

Abstract

The article examines how the current Covid-19 crisis in France crosses into existing socio-economic, political, and existential crises faced by the nation in recent years. It considers the pandemic's impact in the context of the criticism that the French government response provoked in opposition parties regarding its preparedness and strategies. Beyond the multiple budget cuts that have affected the health-care system in France in recent years, and significantly lessen, according to critiques, the country's ability to tackle Covid-19, a growing number of French people link the failure of their government and the rise of violence in society to France's growing dependence on the EU and the decline of French sovereignty in a globalized world. The pandemic's impact is measured through the prism of the current socio-economic crisis, triggered by months of confinements and curfews; the rise of unemployment and populism; and what it could mean for the future of democracy.

Open access

The Politics of Islamic Death Rituals in the COVID-19 Era

The Case of Egypt

Nadeem Ahmed Moonakal and Matthew Ryan Sparks

Abstract

Throughout the Islamic world, the era of COVID-19 has witnessed controversial changes to highly ritualised traditional Islamic funeral rites. To combat the pandemic in Egypt, the government and Al-Azhar implemented restrictions surrounding group prayer and burial which many Egyptians viewed as impinging on their religious duties as well as on their ability to mourn. Utilising participant observation, interviews, and deductive research, this article explores the social and anthropological ramifications involved in the modification of traditional Islamic burial rituals in the era of COVID-19 and the negotiations involved amongst different actors, looking specifically at cases in Egypt.

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Stages, Streets, and Social Media

Intersectional Feminism and Online Activism in France during the Pandemic

Claire Mouflard

Abstract

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, intersectional feminists in France turned to social media to denounce the racism, misogyny, and sexual harassment that have plagued the French film industry and society at large for generations. Although their activism had started long before the pandemic with the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements, the online debates they initiated during the March–May 2020 lockdown (when it became illegal to march, protest, or simply gather in public) reached new and larger audiences beyond their own feminist and artistic spheres. Social media posts and actions by Aïssa Maïga, Rokhaya Diallo, Noémie de Lattre, and comedy duo Camille et Justine elicited strong reactions from opposing parties, notably the “masculinistes” and the “féministes identitaires.” This article highlights these artists’ intersectional discourses, along with the verbal violence they endure online, and ponders the question of equity in terms of digital access and literacy.

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Childbirth during the COVID-19 Pandemic

An Analysis of Fødselen [The birth] by Norwegian Cartoonist, Blogger, and Nurse Hanne Monge Sigbjørnsen

Adriana Margareta Dancus

Abstract

This article provides a close reading of Fødselen [The birth], a powerful and provocative comic by cartoonist, blogger, and nurse Hanne Monge Sigbjørnsen aka Tegnehanne in which she depicts her own negative experiences with childbirth during the COVID-19 pandemic. I first place Fødselen in a historical and sociocultural context, highlighting how Tegnehanne draws on the legacies of Nordic feminist comics, participating in recent trends such as COVID-19 comics and graphic reproduction, and tapping into central feminist debates in contemporary Norwegian feminist activism. I then discuss the complex and engaging ways in which Sigbjørnsen depicts the pain of labour and how Fødselen gives important insights into the negotiation of touch in obstetrics during the COVID-19 pandemic.