July 4, 2020
COVID-19 updates: academic freedom

From the website: "The magnitude and scope of the events put in motion by the spread of the virus call for timely and rigorous interventions by scholars in the social sciences and humanities.  We are in dire need of sober, balanced but also brave analyses to better understand the global implications of the pandemic - what is happening, what kind of challenge this is, how we got here and where it is that we might be going.

Yet, it is also hard to imagine, in such difficult circumstances, that people have the time and fortitude to prioritise what could be seen as intellectual abstraction, as they have done in recent times when major events took the spotlight, be it Brexit, Trump's 2016 victory or mass protests such as #Occupy, #BlackLivesMatter or #RhodesMustFall. It is hard to envisage that the style and content of the analyses will just be a continuation of what has become in recent years “business as usual”.

One thing is clear: academic debate and pluralism can help us grapple with the many uncertainties provoked by the virus. The epidemiological data is emerging, but still limited. Even more obscure are the socio-cultural, political and economic implications of the pandemic.

How does Covid-19 spread in social settings? What kinds of social settings are more conducive or more hostile to contagion? What does contagion mean for people and their everyday lives? How are communities around the world responding to the possibility of infection? Who or what do people hold responsible, if anybody or anything, for the onset of the pandemic? How are people mourning their dead when in many cases they can’t perform their rituals of mourning? What new spaces of refuge are people seeking when the usual spaces of solace are no longer feasible? How are people responding to public health calls of social isolation and hygiene in contexts where crowded living conditions and the absence of basic services make this difficult? What happens to those known to have passed on the infection to other members of their families or communities?

Thinking further: what happens to ideas - such as government, state, citizenship, rights, and life itself - that have been used to theorise collective action and political community? ..."