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.
French Journalistic References to Bookstore Strolling and Fashion Walking
The Public Humanities as a Vaccine for Coexistence
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.
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.
Work, Grace, and Race
Tessa Ashlin Nunn
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.
Inequalities, Divides, Populism
Éric Touya de Marenne
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.
Intersectional Feminism and Online Activism in France during the Pandemic
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.
Infrastructures, (Im)mobilities, and the Politics of Recovery
Benjamin Linder and Galen Murton
This article explores the COVID-19 pandemic to extend the temporal horizon of (post-)disaster mobilities research. We are not only interested in the conspicuous disruption to mobilities wrought by disasters, nor the emergent modes of movement constituted in disasters’ immediate aftermaths. Rather, with special reference to Nepal, this article attends to the jagged and protracted process of remobilizing the world in the wake of dramatic events like COVID-19. In short, we are concerned here with the uneven politics of “getting back to normal.” Two dimensions of this are discussed via a critical reflection on the widespread “dimmer switch” metaphor of remobilization: (1) the uneven rhythms and refractions of remobilization, and (2) the hegemony of “normal” mobilities systems. Using “light” as an illuminating analytic, we renew calls to examine the disparate impacts of disasters themselves, and also to analyze the uneven politics of “getting back” to “normal” mobilities after disasters.
Politics, COVID-19, and the New Germany
Michael Meng and Adam R. Seipp
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.
Some Reflections on Academic Resilience
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.
Promises and Perils
Julia M. Hildebrand and Stephanie Sodero
When the novel coronavirus moved around the planet in early 2020, reconfiguring, slowing down, or halting everyday mobilities, another transport mode was mobilized: the pandemic drone. We highlight the increasing prominence of this aerial device by surveying international media coverage of pandemic drone use in the spring of 2020. To address a range of pandemic drone affordances and applications, we organize manifold cases under two broad categories: sensing and moving with the pandemic drone. Here we ask: what roles do, and could, drones play during the pandemic? Following the empirical examples and related mobilities research, we theorize the drone versus virus and the drone as virus. As such, the work identifies avenues for mobilities research into pandemic drones as a growing mobility domain. Moreover, in thinking through the pandemic drone, we demonstrate creative extensions of mobilities thinking that bridge biological and technological, as well as media and mobility frameworks when multiple public health and safety crises unfolded and intersected.