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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.

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.

Free access

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.

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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.

Open access

Reflecting on Crisis

Ethics of Dis/Engagement in Migration Research

Ioanna Manoussaki-Adamopoulou, Natalie Sedacca, Rachel Benchekroun, Andrew Knight, and Andrea Cortés Saavedra

Abstract

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.

Open access

The Societal Significance of Informal Economics during the COVID-19 Pandemic in an African City

Ebenezer Owusu-Sekyere, Hamdiyah Alhassan, Enock Jengre, Samuel Twumasi Amoah, Kwame Opare-Asamoah, and Alfred Toku

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic compelled many African countries to make decisions that limited livelihood choices. This article examines how informal traders (IT) in Kumasi, Ghana responded to the COVID-19. It explores the livelihood capacities, socioeconomic, sociocultural, and sociopolitical values of informal economics. Using data from multiple sources, the purchase and sale of personal protective equipment (PPE) emerged as the dominant livelihood activity. The results show that IT innovated their way of trading, realigned livelihood activities, and created cross-sectoral networks that enhanced social cohesion. The emerging informal market catalyzed spin-off activities that linked values of the informal sector to the public, distributing agencies, producing companies, and the government. We argue that IT constitute a “natural” and “indispensable” share of Ghana's urban economic, cultural, and governance space. The values of IT expressed within and between these distinct societal spheres should be amplified in the development discourses of countries like Ghana.

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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.

Open access

Teaching creative careers in the pandemic

A study of digital tools used by university instructors

Bexi Perdomo, María del Carmen Llontop Castillo, and Oscar Mas

Abstract

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.