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Open access

Haptic Mediations

Intergenerational Kinship in the Time of COVID-19

Bob Simpson

Abstract

During the COVID-19 crisis, living in lockdown and observing social distancing rules have become an integral part of everyday life. In this article, I offer some auto-ethnographic reflections on the increased use of ICTs within families and particularly across generations. Using vignettes relating to communication with my one-year-old granddaughter and my 92-year-old mother, I consider what it means to have the haptic dimensions of kinship relations stripped out and replaced by technologically mediated connection. By way of conclusion, I consider the relationship between the ‘magic’ of ICTs in interpersonal communication on the one hand and Marshall Sahlins’ notion of mutuality on the other.

Open access

Intimacy with God and Coronavirus in Pakistan

Nadeem Malik

Abstract

Intimacy with God is at the heart of Islamic practice through prayer. Intimacy with fellow congregants became central to the worship practices promoted by religious leaders during the holy month of Ramadan even when social distancing was required because of the pandemic. This was, by and large, an economic matter. Clerics and mosques rely significantly on the income generated through collective worship, especially during Ramadan. This article provides an account of people's sense of intimacy with God and fellow congregants during Ramadan and how it contributed to the spread of the coronavirus in Pakistan.

Open access

The intimate borders of epidemiological nationalism

Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins

Abstract

Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, nation-states closed borders. Borders divide – and intimate difference. In this article, I trace an emergent epidemiological nationalism which intimates a contagious other, taking ‘the’ border as my (unstable) object. While post-war and post-wall European projects celebrate dismantling borders, bordering continually becomes by saturating space with territoriality. Illustrating epidemiological nationalism's intimately located here and there, I turn an ethnographic gaze to Wales: a nation yet not a state, with a border that cannot be closed. Through the socio-spatial saturate of the Welsh border's enduring (non)existence run frictive, entangled intimacies. Meshing border studies with Lauren Berlant's theorisation of intimacies, I show epidemiology's conscription in imaginatively inscribing a safely state-like Welsh nation.

Open access

Islamic Biopolitics during Pandemics in Russia

Intertextuality of Religious, Medical and Political Discourses

Sofya A. Ragozina

Abstract

In this article I discuss how the pandemic state of emergency has formed a subject field in Islamic biopolitics. By analysing the fatwas and official statements issued by Russian Muslim leaders between March and May 2020, I identify their discursive strategy of ‘interpreting’ the language of bureaucracy and medical terminology into the language of Islam, and of providing theological justification for certain governmental decisions. I consider several cases which illustrate the intervention of political and medical discourses of corporality into religious discourse. These include the politicisation of the regulatory functioning of the body, the sacralisation of quarantine as a special time for spiritual activities, the formatting of funerary ritual according to medico-administrative regulations and the comparing of victory in the Great Patriotic War to the victory over COVID-19.

Open access

Lockdown Reflections on Freedom and Cultural Intimacy

Michael Herzfeld

Abstract

In this article I address the role now being played by libertarian attacks on the enforcement of health regulations such as the wearing of masks. I suggest that a kind of cultural intimacy now emerging may take the form of guilty but willful complicity in a libertarian stance, not for reasons of social solidarity or collective freedom but for a NIMBY-like selfishness. That attitude constitutes a larger threat to society and is cultivated by racist and other hate-directed groups often sheltering behind bullying national leaders. These groups adopt the libertarian rhetoric and nationalist tropes of concern to protect individual freedoms, whether in the United States or the United Kingdom. The article ends with an appeal for anthropologists, in particular, to respond by framing a more socially conscious vision of freedom.

Open access

‘No Virus Is Stronger than Our Unity’

Shifting Forms of Governmental Intimacies during COVID-19

Senem Kaptan

Abstract

This article analyses how governments have sustained their relationship with their citizens amidst pandemic restrictions brought about by coronavirus through a focus on the acts of the Turkish government. Specifically, by looking at presidential letters addressed to the nation as well as the government's fundraising campaign, I demonstrate how the Turkish state tried to manage a public health crisis and govern the collective body at once. In doing so, I argue that letters, by serving as both tokens of gratitude to the people and reminders of their patriotic duties, were a powerful political tool used both to re-establish the governmental intimacy between the state and its citizens that was disrupted as a result of pandemic restrictions and to assuage the repercussions of a possible political crisis.

Open access

Physically Distant – Socially Intimate

Reflecting on Public Performances of Resistance in a Pandemic Situation

Marion Hamm

Abstract

In the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic situation, physical interaction and public performances became difficult, while use of digital media for public and private purposes was extended and intensified. This affected citizens’ right of assembly and led to new forms of collective sociality. This article analyses how social intimacy was re-arranged during lockdown through a thick description of mediated performances circulating on Italy's Day of Liberation from Nazi fascism. It examines how a politicised commemoration of resistance echoed fears and desires relating to the virus and enabled the production of subjectivities in a transnational techno-social environment. Combining Lauren Berlant's concept of intimate publics with theories of media, social movements, mediation and national identity, it offers an analytical framework detailing three layers of social intimacy: spatial/corporeal materiality, biography and mediation.

Open access

Quarantime

Lockdown and the Global Disruption of Intimacies with Routine, Clock Time, and the Intensification of Time-Space Compression

Rebecca Irons

Abstract

Global lockdowns have resulted in a challenge to our carefully constructed notions of time, the work week and time-space compression. For the past few months, we have been living in ‘Quarantime’. Quarantime moves differently than our daily lived temporalities of routine and order, and forces us to question the intimate relationship that we may have with how we structure our daily lives around a clock and timesheet. This article questions the challenges and opportunities inherent within the disruption of routine intimacies enacted through Quarantime, drawing on case studies of clock time and the work week, and through examining Quarantime's unique relationship to time-space compression. It will suggest that Quarantime opens up a space for us to question intimate attachments to enforced routine and wide institutionalised concepts of clock time.

Open access

Scientific Intimacy

The Changing Relationship with Medical Data at the Time of COVID-19 pandemic

Elżbieta Drążkiewicz

Abstract

As the coronavirus started to spread in Ireland, the epidemiological data became the most sought-after information in the country. This article will examine the ways in which COVID-19 redefined the intimacies of the relationships that health professionals and the members of the public have with medical data. It will focus on Irish examples and explore how the context of the pandemic turned numbers from abstract cognitive tools into important and affective tenets of social lives that dictated the moral values and conditions of sociality. It will examine the role of enumeration and metrics in mediating new forms of intimacy with state and society.

Open access

Shutting Down Sex

COVID-19, Sex and the Transformation of Singledom

Lara McKenzie

Abstract

This article examines the transformation of singledom during the COVID-19 pandemic, scrutinising the impact of rules and regulations governing proximity, touch and sex. I focus on government responses in Australia, situating the nation's experience in a global context. National discussions were strangely sexless, presuming widespread coupledom and emphasising the lost, non-sexual intimacies of families and older people. I contrast this to broader theoretical claims of a ‘transformation of intimacy’ that posit a move to atomised relations across the Global North, including a growing tendency towards singledom. Yet assumptions of coupledom clearly persist in Australian policy and social life. I reflect on transformations of singledom and living alone during and prior to the pandemic, exposing tensions between theorisations, local realities, and the governance of sex and singledom.