Throughout 2020 and 2021, bells have rung in a variety of COVID-related rituals in the West, ranging from large-scale religious and civic rites, to ad hoc neighborhood and hospital initiatives, to anti-racist memorials that simultaneously spoke to the health crisis at hand. Taking stock of how these COVID bell-ringing rituals were formalized, their structures and actions, and the historical precedents from which they drew their meanings, this article investigates what the sounds of bells and the rituals of bell-ringing communicated about COVID, how they shaped our personal and collective experiences of the crisis, and what functions they were expected to serve during this liminal period. It reveals how, owing to the historical polysemy of bells on the one hand and the social uncertainties of living with COVID on the other, those rituals generated vivid symbolisms and mobilized powerful emotions that sometimes brought about unintended consequences.
Campanology under COVID-19
Migration Research During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Aydan Greatrick, Jumana Al-Waeli, Hannah Sender, Susanna Corona Maioli, Jin L. Li, and Ellen Goodwin
This article draws on our experiences of carrying out PhD research on migration during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all involved with the University College London Migration Research Unit (MRU), and our PhD research explores the lived experiences of migrants and people affected by migration. This is the first of two articles in this issue of Migration and Society addressing the implications of COVID-19 on migration research from the perspective of postgraduate researchers. In this article, we firstly reflect on how “crises,” including the COVID-19 pandemic, inevitably shape contexts of migration research. We then share how COVID-19 has shaped our relationship to “the field” and our formal research institutions. Finally, we share how we have adapted our methodologies in response to COVID-19 and, considering the complex ethical and practical challenges posed by this context, reflect on what it means to make methodological “adaptations” in times of overlapping crises.
Talking about Agency
Annette Schnabel and Bettina Ülpenich
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.
Religious Rituals’ Reflection of Current Social Conditions in the Middle East
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.
The Case of Egypt
Nadeem Ahmed Moonakal and Matthew Ryan Sparks
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.
Ethics of Dis/Engagement in Migration Research
Ioanna Manoussaki-Adamopoulou, Natalie Sedacca, Rachel Benchekroun, Andrew Knight, and Andrea Cortés Saavedra
This article offers a collective “gaze from within” the process of migration research, on the effects the pandemic has had on our interlocutors, our research fields, and our positionalities as researchers. Drawing from our experiences of researching a field in increasing crisis, and following the methodological reflections of the article written by our colleagues in this issue, we discuss a number of dilemmas and repositionings stemming from—and extending beyond—the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Focusing on issues of positionality, ethics of (dis)engaging from the research field, and the underlying extractivist nature of Global North academia, we propose our own vision of more egalitarian and engaged research ethics and qualitative methodologies in the post-pandemic world.
A study of digital tools used by university instructors
Bexi Perdomo, María del Carmen Llontop Castillo, and Oscar Mas
During the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the major concerns at the Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de América Latina (UCAL; the University of Sciences and Arts of Latin America) has been to keep offering high-quality education with effective teaching methodologies and creativity at its core. This article aims to describe and understand the use of digital tools for class preparation, synchronous encounters, storage, interaction, collaborative work and assessment by UCAL’s instructors in creative careers. It finds that instructors were proactive about learning and using a variety of digital tools. Gamification apps and interactive boards were instructors’ favourites because they tended to motivate their students the most. No statistically significant associations were found between tool selection and course, sex, or age. Based on the evidence, this article will propose general guidelines for a training plan for instructors.
This article reflects on the roles anthropologists have played in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines, and identifies the challenges – from the methodological to the political – they faced in fulfilling these roles. Drawing on the author’s personal and professional experiences in the country, as well as on interviews with other anthropologists, this article identifies three major roles for anthropologists: conducting ethnographic research; bearing witness to the pandemic through first-person accounts; and engaging various publics. All these activities have contributed to a greater recognition of the role of the social sciences in health crises, even as anthropologists struggle to gain the same legitimacy as their clinical and public health counterparts. The article concludes by making recommendations that can better prepare local anthropologists in responding to future health crises.
The COVID-19 pandemic represents a new significant test for the role of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in regional health governance in Southeast Asia. Assessing ASEAN's role during the pandemic through the concepts of “actorness” and “effectiveness,” the article argues that while ASEAN displayed all the attributes of actorness during the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to its effectiveness, the capacity of the regional institution to reach the objectives it committed to has been rather limited. Explaining the reasons for such “effectiveness–expectation gap” and, considering the last policy development in the region related to regional health coordination, the article identifies several conditions for ASEAN to strengthen its capacity to act effectively on regional health cooperation, and to contribute to the strengthening of a regional health response to a possible future epidemic threat.
El COVID-19 representa una nueva e importante prueba para el papel de la ASEAN en la gobernanza sanitaria regional. Al evaluar su papel durante la pandemia a través de los conceptos de “actuación” y “eficacia”, el artículo sostiene que, si bien la ASEAN mostró todos los atributos de actoría durante la pandemia, en lo que respecta a su eficacia, su capacidad para alcanzar los objetivos a los que se comprometió ha sido limitada. Explicando las razones de esa “brecha entre eficacia y expectativas” y considerando el último desarrollo de políticas de coordinación sanitaria regional, el artículo identificó varios prerrequisitos como ineludibles en su búsqueda por reforzar la eficacia para garantizar la cooperación sanitaria regional en el Sudeste Asiático y mejorar la respuesta regional ante una próxima amenaza sanitaria.
La pandémie de COVID-19 représente un test significatif pour apprécier le rôle de l'Association des nations de l'Asie du Sud-Est (ASEAN) au sein de la gouvernance sanitaire régionale en Asie du Sud-Est. En évaluant le rôle de l'ASEAN pendant cette pandémie à travers les concepts d'actorness (capacité à agir) et d'effectiveness (efficacité), cet article montre que si l'ASEAN a exprimé sa capacité à agir pendant cette crise sanitaire, son efficacité, i.e son aptitude à atteindre les objectifs qu'elle s'est fixés, a été plutôt limitée. Les raisons d'un tel écart entre efficacité et attentes (effectiveness-expectations gap) sont expliquées dans l'article qui identifie plusieurs conditions pour que l'ASEAN contribue efficacement au renforcement d'une réponse sanitaire régionale indispensable face à une éventuelle prochaine menace épidémique.
An Analysis of Fødselen [The birth] by Norwegian Cartoonist, Blogger, and Nurse Hanne Monge Sigbjørnsen
Adriana Margareta Dancus
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.