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Roundtable: The COVID-19 Pandemic in Israel

Joel S. Migdal, Anat Ben-David, Uriel Abulof, Shirley Le Penne, Tomer Persico, Nohad ‘Ali, Tsafi Sebba-Elran, Maya Rosenfeld, Nissim Cohen, Eran Vigoda-Gadot, Shlomo Mizrahi, Meital Pinto, Hagar Salamon, and Diego Rotman

As in other countries, COVID-19 hit Israel like a bolt of lightning—unexpected, sudden, and powerful. And, like others, Israel was woefully unprepared for what would follow. The first cases came to light in the last week of February 2020, and by March and April the country was in full-scale crisis mode. In the end, almost one in ten people came down with the virus and more than 8,000 died, more than in any war that Israel has fought.

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Freed from Sadness and Fear

Politics, COVID-19, and the New Germany

Michael Meng and Adam R. Seipp

Abstract

This article argues that we are witnessing the possible emergence of a Germany confident in the strength of its rational and democratic approach to governance. Thinking about this development through Baruch Spinoza's insights into the centrality of reason to democracy, we suggest that Germany has responded to its past in a salutary manner by building a rational and responsible democracy. Few recent events illustrate this transformation more clearly than Germany's reaction to the covid-19 pandemic.

Open access

Museums and the Pandemic, One Year On

Some Reflections on Academic Resilience

Joanna Cobley

Abstract

Written as notes from the field, this article explores the overlaps between researcher development and the idea of academic resilience within the museum and heritage studies community. During a climate of uncertainty and rapid change, it argues that alongside the academic literature, positive psychology methods transfer well into the researcher development space. Methods involved informal email conversations with museum and heritage practitioners united by how COVID-19 and border lockdown presented new opportunities to connect, share ideas, and rethink. Presented as short narratives, these findings show how researchers and practitioners in northern Europe, the United Kingdom and Canada share similar concerns to those in the southern hemisphere about climate change, equity, well-being, resilience, and sustainability. These narratives highlight the importance of encouraging critical engagement, finding ways to traverse time zones that build international networks and provide leadership opportunities for researchers at any level.

Open access

Compliance

Politics, Sociability and the Constitution of Collective Life

Will Rollason and Eric Hirsch

Abstract

What kind of phenomenon is it when ordinary people in the United Kingdom unexpectedly abide by government advice on social distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, even anticipating constraints on their activities? These happenings demand that we engage anthropologically with compliance – acts or activities that conform, submit or adapt to rules or to the demands of others. At present, there is no ‘anthropology of compliance’. Rather, the discipline has inherited traditions of thought about compliance – as a necessary aspect of sociability or a morally suspect complicity, demanding resistance. These assumptions remain unexamined, but profoundly shape anthropological scholarship. This introduction aims to show how and why compliance might be a useful heuristic for anthropology. We define compliance as that set of means by which actors strive to accommodate themselves to others in their collective life. We argue that this conception of compliance allows us to multiply the kinds of phenomena we can call ‘political’. It allows us to think about the political constitution of ‘radical’ difference, but to avoid making people identical with their cultural or conceptual worlds. By showing what compliance is and how it operates in and on social life, we ought therefore to be able to recover both specific forms of suffering and inequality and the ways in which social lives are constitutively different.

Open access

The Nuclear/Nuclear Family

Moralities of Intimacy under COVID-19

Petra Tjitske Kalshoven

Abstract

During the COVID-19 lockdown, as households were kept separate in a bid to contain the coronavirus, morally underpinned dynamics of fission and fusion occurred, privileging the ‘nuclear family’, which is taken here in two senses: the conventional social unit of a couple and their children, on the one hand, and the togetherness promoted by the nuclear industry in North West England, on the other. Whilst Sellafield's Nuclear family fused with its host community in an outpouring of corporate kindness and volunteering, singles bereft of nuclear families were fissioned off from social life, which led to a corrective debate in the Netherlands. Drawing out analogies from a modest comparative perspective, I posit the nuclear family as a prism affording insights into the corporate, governmental and personal management of intimacy.

Open access

The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Reconfigurations of Domestic Space in Favelas

Brief Reflections on Intimacies and Precariousness

Carolina Parreiras

Abstract

This article aims to reflect on the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic changed how experiences of intimacy occur with a specific focus on the domestic relations of women living in favelas in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In contexts marked by precariousness and by the everyday difficulty of cohabitation in spaces that are characterised as small and with little infrastructure, the pandemic retraces the forms of co-existence, modifying the ways in which intimacies are built and experienced. The perspective adopted takes into account the ways in which the pandemic creates, recreates and intensifies relationships of vulnerability that not only include prevention of the virus, but changes to domestic space and women’ private lives.

Open access

Fieldwork through the Zoomiverse

Sensing Uganda in a Time of Immobility

Richard Vokes and Gertrude Atukunda

Abstract

We have been conducting collaborative ethnographic research together for over 20 years. Over the past 12 months, this collaboration has included face-to-face encounters, both in Kampala, Uganda, and in Perth, Australia. However, since the advent of COVID-19-related ‘lockdowns’ in our respective countries, our engagements have been conducted exclusively over online platforms, including WhatsApp, Facebook and – increasingly – Zoom. In this article, we reflect upon our shared experience of conducting ethnography through this platform as a tool for understanding the effects of the pandemic in Uganda. We argue that, despite all kinds of material constraints (at both ends), Zoom has much to offer the ethnographer particularly because it can generate an intimate understanding of experience and time. However, against this advantage, some aspects of social life remain beyond the range of its channels, for which an assemblage of additional methods are required. We finish by reflecting upon what these methods have contributed to our long-term study of emergent cultures of mobility in Uganda – a study which is now being conducted in an ostensible context of immobility.

Open access

‘It's Like Waking Up in the Library’

How an International Student Dorm in Copenhagen Became a Closed Circuit during COVID-19

Brian McGahey

Abstract

This article examines how lockdown measures have affected international students living in an international student dorm in Copenhagen. During the COVID-19 lockdown in Denmark from March to June, the dorm, which was previously considered a domestic space only, emerged as a closed circuit that collapsed into a single space living, work and leisure activities. The article shows that due to the lack of physical, mental and temporal demarcations between spaces of work and leisure, the dorm as a closed circuit has altered social and intimate relations. Drawing on concepts of non-places, home, and hyper-places, it argues that the life of international students was particularly disrupted by the COVID-19 lockdown.

Open access

Ladies Selling Breakfast

COVID-19 Disruption of Intimate Socialities among Street-Engaged Food Traders in Ho Chi Minh City

Ngoc-Bich Pham, Hong-Xoan Nguyen, and Catherine Earl

Abstract

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's largest city, supports a vibrant street food culture. Most of the city's street-engaged food traders are poor and unskilled women, and there is scant research about how they build social networks and social capital that sustain their micro-businesses. This article focusses on the intimate socialities that street-engaged food traders develop with customers, shop owners and sister-traders in order to stabilise their incomes while their informal street-trading activities are policed and potentially shut down. Recent COVID-19 lockdown and social-distancing measures disrupted the crucial interpersonal relations of street trading and left the traders with no income. This article explores traders’ strategies for achieving economic security, and outlines transformations of intimate socialities into mediated and digital relations after the lockdown.

Open access

The Lockdown of Koti Intimacies

Banhishikha Ghosh

Abstract

This article considers the way the outbreak of coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown have egregiously impeded the intimate life practices of Kotis, people who possess a distinct gender-variant identity in India. The Kotis, who subsist mostly on begging or sex work through cross-dressing, counter the hegemonic heteronormative ‘bodyscape’ that fetishizes bodily differences and reinforces normative intimate practices. Using narratives and documentary evidence on their lives, this article elaborates how Koti livelihoods and the intimate practices circumambient of such livelihoods are withering away because of the pandemic. Tragically today, they are branded as ‘corona transmitters’, and their intimate practices are stigmatised as ‘infectious’. A restraint on their physical movement and gathering in public spaces due to the pandemic has ramifications not only for their livelihood, but also for their intimate practices and identity assertions.