With approximately one-fifth of the world’s population currently in lockdown, the novel coronavirus (COVID–19) pandemic has drastically changed many of our lives. According to official statistics, the virus has now infected over 700,000 individuals across 192 countries, and such draconian measures are likely to have saved countless lives. But, the effects of the virus reach far beyond its biological capacity to cause illness. Originating in Wuhan, China, its rapid spread across national boundaries has drawn attention to the porous and interconnected world that we live in. The resulting economic consequences of the lockdown measures highlight the volatility of the global economy and the precarity of those whose labour sustains it. At the same time, it has transformed the way we interact with one another and understand ourselves, as new forms of creativity and solidarity emerge. In the time of coronavirus, both critical cultural analysis and sustained personal reflection are needed more than ever to put these emerging new realities into perspective.
Several leading intellectuals have already published their views on the coronavirus pandemic. Judith Butler, for one, has considered how the pandemic lays bare the radical inequalities inherent to global capitalism, drawing particular attention to the fraught politics of healthcare in the United States. Elsewhere, David Harvey has examined the broader repercussions for the dynamics of global capital accumulation; modes of consumerism that have long underpinned Western economies are now crashing before our very eyes, he says, and with potentially devastating consequences. On the other hand, philosopher Giorgio Agamben has come under criticism for his dismissal of the pandemic as a manufactured “state of exception,” aimed at facilitating a project of total control by governments and corporations, while denying the harsh reality of contagion altogether.
For the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, students and faculty at The Lisbon Consortium are encouraged to reflect further on the multifarious impacts of this bewildering new reality. To facilitate this, our PhD students are launching a new website, Culture in Quarantine, through which they hope to publish critical writing, visual essays and other creative responses over the coming weeks. When the pandemic is over, the website will remain online to serve as an archive of our collective thoughts and experiences.
Contributions of any length in the following formats are welcome:
Personal reflections, cultural critique and analysis, adaptations or excerpts of larger research projects. Please write for a general audience and avoid too much academic jargon.
Creative responses to the coronavirus pandemic, including prose and poetry of all genres.
★ Visual essays
All combinations of photography (or other visual material) and text are welcome. Please indicate any specific layout requirements and we will try to accommodate.
Please also include a short biography of no more than 100 words.