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A politicized ecology of resilience

Redistributive land reform and distributive justice in the COVID-19 pandemic

Jonathan DeVore

Brazil has endured multiple political, economic, and environmental crises—and now the COVID-19 pandemic—which have drawn social inequalities into razor sharp relief. This contribution analyzes the resilience of rural families facing these crises in southern Bahia. These families have benefited from various redistributive policies over the years, including redistributive land reforms (RLRs), conditional cash transfers (CCTs), and recent emergency aid (EA) payments related to the pandemic. Each (re)distributive approach involves different notions of distributive justice informed by competing background theories of “the good,” which hold implications for concepts of resilience. Drawing on long-term research with RLR communities in Bahia, this article considers the gains achieved by different redistributive programs. Families who acquired land through RLR projects appear more resilient, especially in the face of crisis.

Open access

The triple-sidedness of “I can't breathe”

The COVID-19 pandemic, enslavement, and agro-industrial capitalism

Don Nonini

On Juneteenth, Friday, June 19, 2020, unionized workers of the Durham Workers Assembly of Durham, North Carolina, held a rally in front of Durham Police Headquarters to “defund the police” in support of the national Black Lives Matter movement protesting in massive numbers in the streets of US cities and being met with overwhelming police repression. Black Lives Matter marches in the streets of cities and towns of the United States continued, as the world looked on.

Open access

Marla Frederick, Yunus Doğan Telliel, and Heather Mellquist Lehto

COVID-19, Religious Markets, and the Black Church, Marla Frederick

Can You See the Big Picture? COVID-19 and Telescoping Truth, Yunus Doğan Telliel

Learning from Religious Diasporas in Pandemic Times, Heather Mellquist Lehto

Open access

Art Gallery Education in New Zealand during COVID-19

The Emergence of a Community of Practice

Esther Helen McNaughton

Abstract

This article describes the unprecedented coming together of New Zealand art gallery educators to respond to the challenges of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. This newly formed community of practice met virtually three times at critical points. At each stage, new concerns were discussed and understandings evolved. The gallery educators were able to approach shared issues cooperatively, enabling mutual support to a degree that had hitherto not been possible. By the end of these meetings, gallery educators were reestablishing their regular teaching practice with the integration of many of the innovations of the period. Additionally, the meetings fulfilled a preexisting desire for closer contact and professional support, and thus proved to be the foundation of an ongoing national professional group for New Zealand art gallery educators.

Open access

Museums in the Pandemic

A Survey of Responses on the Current Crisis

Joanna Cobley, David Gaimster, Stephanie So, Ken Gorbey, Ken Arnold, Dominique Poulot, Bruno Brulon Soares, Nuala Morse, Laura Osorio Sunnucks, María de las Mercedes Martínez Milantchí, Alberto Serrano, Erica Lehrer, Shelley Ruth Butler, Nicky Levell, Anthony Shelton, Da (Linda) Kong, and Mingyuan Jiang

Throughout human history, the spread of disease has closed borders, restricted civic movement, and fueled fear of the unknown; yet at the same time, it has helped build cultural resilience. On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) classified COVID-19 as a pandemic. The novel zoonotic disease, first reported to the WHO in December 2019, was no longer restricted to Wuhan or to China, as the highly contagious coronavirus had spread to more than 60 countries. The public health message to citizens everywhere was to save lives by staying home; the economic fallout stemming from this sudden rupture of services and the impact on people's well-being was mindboggling. Around the globe museums, galleries, and popular world heritage sites closed (). The Smithsonian Magazine reported that all 19 institutes, including the National Zoo and the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), would be closed to the public on 14 March (). On the same day, New Zealand's borders closed, and the tourism industry, so reliant on international visitors, choked. Museums previously deemed safe havens of society and culture became petri dishes to avoid; local museums first removed toys from their cafés and children's spaces, then the museum doors closed and staff worked from home. In some cases, front-of-the-house staff were redeployed to support back-of-the-house staff with cataloguing and digitization projects. You could smell fear everywhere.

Open access

Sheila K. Hoffman

In the mid-1990s, when many museums were beginning to take their first hesitant steps toward building online personae, the worry still holding many back was that if a collection or experience were available online, in-person visitation would invariably decline (; ; ). In the 25 years since, that fear has largely been dispelled even as our technical ability to digitally capture and disseminate cultural collections has improved exponentially, even to the point that the online experience in some ways exceeds the in-person experience. Indeed, museums have moved far beyond the ability to show a few images of the major works in a collection, adding opportunities that mirror almost all the offerings of the in-person experience. But even this “Mona Lisa” effect has not driven in-person visitation down. Rather the opposite. Anyone who has elbowed through the crowds at many of the world's best-known museums can attest to that. Indeed, having been among this ubiquitous press of people, I could not help but think on such occasions that it would take an act of God to reduce the numbers and improve the quality of viewing.

Open access

COVID-19 as method

Managing the ubiquity of waste and waste-collectors in India

Tridibesh Dey

Events like the COVID-19 pandemic can become what Assa Doron and Robin Jeffrey have called ‘binding crises’: ‘events with the clarity and immediacy of a terrifying threat’ (2018: 12), impacting the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless – though unevenly. Binding crises of the past (like the 1842 Great Fire of Hamburg, the 1858 Great Stink in London and the 1896 Bombay plague) have led to ubiquitous reforms in sanitation and waste management practices, most notably landmark innovations in modern sewerage systems. In what follows, I draw on ethnographic research, conducted discontinuously over five years (2015–2019), around municipal solid waste management (MSWM), and the political ecology of informal plastic recycling in the city of Ahmedabad, India. I argue that the current pandemic may constitute such a binding event as freelance waste-collection networks are paralysed by the lockdown and ‘authorised’ modes of waste collection are prioritised, leading to a novel ‘infrastructuring’ of emerging relations between human bodies and wasted things.

Open access

Ethnographic witnessing

Or, hope is the first anthropological emotion

Carole McGranahan

In the early months of the pandemic, much of normal life stopped. This was as true for me in the United States as for people I knew in countries around the world; we were all suddenly on pandemic time (Manley 2020). However, as one after another part of my life shifted, one aspect remained constant: the emails continued. Each week, and sometimes more than once, I received a request to serve as an expert witness in US political asylum cases for Nepali and Tibetan applicants. This is work I've been doing since 2005. It is work that seeks you out based on your knowledge of certain countries, for which one becomes an ‘expert’ when there is trouble in a country you know professionally (Good 2007). And it is work that I always feel unprepared for, as it requires not only testifying to political conditions in an applicant's host country but also being a witness to their often horrific experiences of political persecution.

Open access

Narmala Halstead

As a much proclaimed ‘new normal’ accompanying the global pandemic, the suspension of certain rights to protect other rights returns our attention to notions of exceptions outside the law in terms of sovereign power and those hidden within the law, such as structurally embedded violations. The consent for the emergency rights accorded to the state to act for the greater protection and bio-survival of all occurs alongside certain contestations which also, in dramatic instances, include spaces for new protests against structural and physical violence on the person. The murder of George Floyd and the protests which followed signalled points of both convergence and dissonance in relation to the emergency rights of the state and the overlooking of other ‘less visible’ loss of rights.

Open access

Introduction

Legal regimes under pandemic conditions: A comparative anthropology

Geoffrey Hughes

As it has spread globally, the pathogen SARS-CoV-2 (known colloquially as the coronavirus) has already caused untold suffering, with more most certainly to come. Yet as the virus afflicts, it has also encountered a range of human responses – from initial indifference and outright denial in parts of the Anglo-American West to society-wide mobilizations in much of the rest of the world. In doing so, the virus has become a sort of diagnostic tool that can reveal a lot about any body politic that it happens to enter, something we attempt to leverage in this issue's forum through reflections from ethnographers working in both India (Dey) and the United States (Brinkworth et al., McGranahan).