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Open access

A World of Touch in a No-Touch Pandemic

Living with Dementia in a Care Facility during COVID-19

Cristina Douglas

Abstract

Touch is essential when living with dementia for communication and remaining connected with the world, and it is also unavoidable when performing body care. Thus, it is impossible to think of living and caring for people with dementia in the absence of touch. Drawing from my ethnographic fieldwork conducted with therapy animals and people living with dementia in Scottish care facilities, in this article I argue that the public health measures taken against the spread of COVID-19 infections need to be reimagined by taking into consideration the role of touch. Furthermore, I try to draw attention to the lessons that we should learn about touch and the role of intimate bodily entanglements in dementia care from the high COVID-19 death tolls amongst British care home residents.

Open access

Zooming in on COVID

The Intimacies of Screens, Homes and Learning Hierarchies

Adam Roth, Niroshnee Ranjan, Grace King, Shamim Homayun, Rebecca Hendershott, and Simone Dennis

Abstract

This article is a result of the way in which the design of a first-year anthropology course attempted to undo stern structural hierarchies between students and teachers. Instead, the participants regarded one another as fellow anthropologists undertaking ethnographic research on the university context. This article examines the intimate relations that came available to participants when the course moved from in-person to Zoom format. Participants moved into homes to document the unfurling COVID-19 crisis, (back) into intimate familial relations. But this was not the only intimacy with which participants had to grapple anthropologically. The lecture materials, too, connected themselves to things and experiences in immediacy as they arrived into homes through laptop screens. The screens themselves offered up new insights into the lives of others – something newly minted anthropologists had to account for as they completed the course.

Open access

Alone Together

Intimacy and Semi-Mobility during Ho Chi Minh City's Lockdown

Van Minh Nguyen

Abstract

In this article, based on my ethnographic experience of Ho Chi Minh City's lockdown, I argue that COVID-19 acted as an accelerator of intimacies, allowing people to negotiate alternative forms of sociality both within and outside the domestic space. On the one hand, by confining people at home it brought to light social and housing inequalities in urban Vietnam. On the other, it forced people to find imaginative ways to cope with social-distancing protocols. Since mobility during lockdown was limited, the normatively private space of the house became an incubator for social life, affording people – even those outside the circle of close friends and relatives – the opportunity to be alone together, sharing their temporary stuckness to challenge normative patterns of intimacy and sexuality.

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American Quarantine

The Right to Housing in a Pandemic

Bonnie Honig

Abstract

In the US, quarantine requires we stay home, but many do not have homes to stay in or may lose theirs due to job or wage loss. For this reason, moratoria have been put on evictions. At the same time, after the latest police killings, and during ensuing protests against racist policing in June 2020, some were arrested for curfew violations, many pulled off the streets but others out of their homes or off their stoops. A real right to housing addresses both homelessness and uncurbed police powers that round up and break in. To address current emergencies and correct larger wrongs of American life, a rent jubilee would better protect tenants than a moratorium. It could be construed as a “taking,” allowed by the 5th Amendment, compensating landlords for their properties’ being taken to serve a “public use.” Popular takings, too, are rising up on behalf of a right to housing that goes beyond rent moratoria for some and the provision of low-grade “public housing” for others.

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Babies and Boomers

Intergenerational Democracy and the Political Epidemiology of COVID-19

Toby Rollo

Abstract

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how public health decisions in mass liberal democracies always reflect a political trade-off between protecting privileged groups and leaving more marginalized groups precariously exposed. Examining the “political epidemiology” of COVID-19, I focus on the ways that the lives and well-being of children are sacrificed to secure adult interests. I argue that in our efforts to protect older adults we have endangered children and abandoned the future of today's youth. This, I conclude, is indicative of a liberal preoccupation with adults and adult forms of agency, a defect that can only be adequately challenged by working toward more robust forms of democratic inclusion that include children and youth.

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Centralized or Decentralized

Which Governance Systems are Having a “Good” Pandemic?

Jennifer Gaskell and Gerry Stoker

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects across the world, yet different countries have had varying degrees of success in their attempts to manage it. One of the reasons behind the different outcomes observed so far lies in the strengths and weaknesses of different governance arrangements leveraged to tackle the crisis. In this article we examine what we can learn about the operational capacity of different democracies through their early responses to the crisis. We provide a framework of four positive qualities of multilevel governance that might lead to greater chances of positive practical outcomes and present an illustrative case study of the experiences of Switzerland and the United Kingdom (UK). We conclude with some areas for further research and investigation.

Open access

Child Protection Social Work in COVID-19

Reflections on Home Visits and Digital Intimacy

Sarah Pink, Harry Ferguson, and Laura Kelly

Abstract

This article brings together digital anthropology and social work scholarship to create an applied anthropology of everyday digital intimacy. Child protection social work involves home visits in the intimate spaces of others, where modes of sensorial and affective engagement combine with professional awareness and standards to constitute sensitive understandings of children's well-being and family relationships. In the COVID-19 pandemic, social work practice has shifted, partly, to distance work where social workers engage digitally with service users in their homes while seeking to constitute similarly effective modes of intimacy and understanding. We bring practice examples from our study of social work and child protection during COVID-19 together with anthropologies of digital intimacy to examine implications for new modes of digital social work practice.

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Coronavirus, Democracy and the Challenges of Engaging a Planetary Order

Milja Kurki

Abstract

As the challenges presented by the coronavirus are being processed within national communities and the international order, important new avenues for re-thinking democratic theory and practice present themselves. This short article discusses the potential implications of a shift toward planetary politics whereby we engage not only human communities but also non-human ones in our thinking and practice of democracy. New opportunities to rethink “international order” and how we negotiate with ecosystems are presented by opening up (rather than closing down) our political imaginations in the context of the coronavirus challenge.

Open access

COVID-19 and the Transformation of Intimate Inter-and Intra-National Relations

Andrew Dawson

Abstract

Based conceptually on Michael Herzfeld's ideas of cultural intimacy and disemia, and empirically on lockdown auto-ethnography, this article considers how erstwhile intimate inter-and intra-national relations have been transformed by COVID-19. Its particular ethnographic focus is Australian–British post-colonial relations and the personal emergence of a hybrid Br-Australian consciousness.

Open access

COVID-19 and Uncertain Intimacy

State–Society Relations in Urban China and Beyond

Jialing Luo

Abstract

The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought new uncertainties to state–society relations in urban China. Arguably, China's containment of the pandemic can largely be attributed to the state's effective, but controversial, governance of society. At the grassroots level of Chinese cities, local state shequ (‘communities’ centred on the Residents’ Committees) have played a vital role in terms of both surveillance and service provision. However, rather than establishing an intimate relationship with civil society as the state intended, the latter's handling of the pandemic resulted in contested views on the extent to which the state should intervene in society. This article engages with the ongoing debate on state–society relations, and argues that in urban China we are now seeing the advance of the state.