1st Edition

The Cultural Politics of COVID-19

Edited By John Nguyet Erni, Ted Striphas Copyright 2023
    442 Pages
    by Routledge

    442 Pages
    by Routledge

    COVID-19 isn’t simply a viral pathogen nor is it, strictly speaking, the trigger of a global pandemic. Since the outbreak began in late-2019, an outpouring of clinical and scientific research, together with an array of public health initiatives, has sought to understand, mitigate, or even eradicate the virus. This book represents a snapshot of critical responses by researchers from 10 countries and 4 continents, in a collective effort to explore how Cultural Studies can contribute to our struggle to persevere in a "no normal" horizon, with no clear end in sight. Together, the essays address important questions at the intersection of culture, power, politics, and public health: What are the possible outlines for the panic-pandemic complex? How has the pandemic been endowed with meanings and affective registers, often at the tipping points where existing social relations and medical understanding were being rapidly displaced by new ones? How can societies discover ways of living with, through, and against COVID that do not simply reproduce existing hierarchies and power relations?

    The 30 essays comprising this collection, along with the editors’ introduction, explore the formative period of the COVID pandemic, from mid-2020 to mid-2021. They are grouped into three sections – ‘Racializations,’ ‘Media, Data, and Fragments of the Popular,’ and ‘Un/knowing the Pandemic’ – themes that animate, but do not exhaust, the complex cultural and political life of COVID-19 with respect to identity, technology, and epistemology. No doubt, readers will chart their own pathway as the pandemic continues to rage on, based on their own unique circumstances. This book provides critical-intellectual guideposts for the way forward – toward an uncertain future, without guarantees.

    The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of the journal, Cultural Studies.

    1. Introduction: COVID-19, the multiplier 

    John Nguyet Erni and Ted Striphas 


    2. COVID-19 and the mundane practices of privilege 

    Kumarini Silva 

    3. Following the science? COVID-19, ‘race’ and the politics of knowing 

    John Clarke 

    4. ‘Give me liberty or give me COVID!’: Anti-lockdown protests as necropopulist downsurgency 

    Jack Bratich 

    5. Racism is a public health crisis! Black Power in the COVID-19 pandemic 

    Lisa B. Y. Calvente 

    6. Asian Americans as racial contagion 

    Madhavi Mallapragada 

    7. COVID-19 and ‘crisis as ordinary’: pathological whiteness, popular pessimism, and pre-apocalyptic cultural studies 

    Josh Smicker 

    8. COVID-19 and the affective politics of congestion: an exploration of population density debates in Australia 

    Sukhmani Khorana 

    9. The long and deadly road: the COVID pandemic and Indian migrants 

    Raka Shome 

    Media, Data, and Fragments of the Popular 

    10. New normals, from talk to gesture 

    Chris Ingraham 

    11. Everyday life and the management of risky bodies in the COVID-19 era 

    Jeffrey A. Bennett 

    12. Virus government – A twenty-first-century genealogy of the ‘dusk mask’ as biopolitical technology 

    James Hay 

    13. Bio or Zoe?: dilemmas of biopolitics and data governmentality during COVID-19 

    Yeran Kim 

    14. Predicting COVID-19: wearable technology and the politics of solutionism 

    James N. Gilmore 

    15. Learning from Lana: Netflix’s Too Hot to Handle, COVID-19, and the human-nonhuman entanglement in contemporary technoculture 

    Fan Yang 

    16. COVID bread-porn: social stratification through displays of self-management 

    Ravindra N. Mohabeer 

    17. Parodies for a pandemic: coronavirus songs, creativity and lockdown 

    Jon Stratton 

    18. Fashion in ‘crisis’: consumer activism and brand (ir)responsibility in lockdown 

    Rimi Khan and Harriette Richards 

    19. Zombie capitalism and coronavirus time 

    Elmo Gonzaga 

    20. No time for fun: the politics of partying during a pandemic 

    Nicholas Holm 

    Un/knowing the Pandemic 

    21. Enduring COVID-19, nevertheless 

    Rebecca A. Adelman 

    22. The dead-end of ad-hocracy 

    Charles R. Acland 

    23. The spectacle of competence: global pandemic and the redesign of leadership in a post neo-liberal world 

    Leon Gurevitch 

    24. The epiphanic moments of COVID-19: the revelation of painful national truths 

    Mette Hjort 

    25. Collective disorientation in the pandemic conjuncture 

    Alexander J. Means and Graham B. Slater 

    26. Mistranslation as disinformation: COVID-19, global imaginaries, and self-serving cosmopolitanism 

    Sheng Zou 

    27. Religion and urban political eco/pathology: exploring communalized coronavirus in South Asia 

    Asif Mehmood, Sajjad Hasnain and Muhammad Azam 

    28. Doing cultural studies in rough seas: the COVID-19 ocean multiple 

    Elspeth Probyn 

    29. COVID-19 at sea: ‘the world as you know it no longer exists’ 

    Christiaan De Beukelaer 

    30. Back to the future: lessons of a SARS hysteria for the COVID-19 pandemic 

    Allen Chun 

    31. Beyond the crisis: transitioning to a better world? 

    Ien Ang 


    John Nguyet Erni is Dean of Humanities and Chair Professor of Cultural Studies at The Education University of Hong Kong. Previously, he was Fung Hon Chu Endowed Chair of Humanics at Hong Kong Baptist University. His most recent book is Law and Cultural Studies: A Critical Rearticulation of Human Rights.

    Ted Striphas, Coeditor of the journal Cultural Studies, is Associate Professor of Media Studies, University of Colorado Boulder, USA. He is author of The Late Age of Print and of the upcoming monograph Algorithmic Culture. Twitter: @striphas