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Editorial. Covid-19 and the reconfiguration of the political

The editors of this first issue of the Crisis Discourse Blog are proud to be able to present a collection of carefully crafted blog posts. They look into the repercussions the pandemic has had on ‘the political’, on what constitutes our political struggle and political identities in the pandemic era. What emerges from this collection is a nuanced view of ‘the pandemic political’ and of the contribution discourse analysis can make to cognise the implications of Covid-19. It demonstrates the complementary or alternative insights that are revealed when one applies different traditions of discourse research and genres of critical reading

Solidarity and the signification of compliance

This blog post analyzes the utilization of the concept of solidarity within the context of the Covid-19-crisis. It argues that the concept is central in epitomizing the securitized dividing-line between the hegemonic and counter-hegemonic discourses and the ways in which they construct the nature of the current crisis. It reveals that and how the notion of solidarity has become a battleground for underlying interpretations of the crisis situation. This also led to a shift in the understanding of the concept of solidarity. While this appears to be the case in several countries, this blog post focuses on the German context.

Triumph or failure? A biopolitical view on the COVID-19 crisis response

Biopolitics has been a widely used concept during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, attention has been limited to practices of discipline and power imposed to safeguard public health and the resultant normalization of states of exception. This narrow reading of biopolitics, however, does not allow us to develop viable alternatives to the vicious circle of surveillance and protest. This blog post suggests viewing biopolitics as a slippery concept. It proposes a more nuanced reading of biopolitics, highlighting its affirmative potential that could help develop imaginaries to counter the current biopolitical impasse. The e-biopolitics of Estonia serves as an example.

Caught in institutional logic: Swedish public-health campaigns targeting migrants

This blog post discusses public information campaigns directed at socially vulnerable, multilingual communities in Sweden. Based on a study of a health-information campaign from 2015/16, it discusses the tensions between the institutional aim to influence the behaviour of individuals and the practical needs of the target audience. Applying a practice-theoretical approach, I argue that public information campaigns are often stuck in an institutional logic limited by legal, medical and procedural factors and removed from the lived experiences of the target community. Negotiating these contrasting contexts can be facilitated by health brokers.

Crisis and exceptionality

This piece discusses the meaning of crisis, clarifies its relationship to exceptionality and considers the usefulness of the concept of crisis within the Covid-19 context. By means of a disambiguation of the term, it is argued that emergency responses come hand in hand with crises. The overlapping of crisis and emergency politics hinders our analytical capacity, and suggests the need to pay more attention to agency when thinking about crises. A critical reading of exceptionality is proposed, mainly through the work of Agamben and Neocleous, to elucidate the usefulness of the term crisis in the current context.

A reversal mirror of the responsible subject. Chronicles of Italian mainstream representations of anti-vaxxers

While the number of reasons for not getting vaccinated is hard to list, the word No Vax (anti-vaxxer) has become a central signifier in the Italian mainstream media’s lexicon of the crisis management of the pandemic. Since the beginning of the vaccination campaign, Italian media outlets depicted anti-vaxxers as a unitarian subject. These representations, this paper ventures, articulate implicit discourses on anti-vaxxer specular reflection: the responsible citizen. The snapshot analysis provocatively proposes a discourse-governmental-theoretical analysis of selected journalistic representations of anti-vaxxers as the constitutive other, that is, discursive elements aiming at stabilising governmental practices of COVID crisis management.

Targets in Czech Digital Covid-related Humour

The blogpost deals with an analysis of targets in Czech Covid-related digital humour. The material for the study are humorous memes, collected from Czech social media users from December 2019 till February 2021 within a university project, comprising about 1000 samples. The post maps what targets appear in the collected humorous memes, what role in the pandemic situation they are ascribed and what general discourse strategies the construction of targets reflects. The analysis reveals the capacity of humour to create in-group/out-group oppositions and the dominant tendencies of portraying the targets as the ones to blame, as threats, rivals and sheeples.

The manyfold (de-) securitizations of Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has been described as a universal securitization that has resulted in a global state of emergency. However, the research emerging on Covid-19 discourses in different countries shows that securitization was not the universal answer to the pandemic. These findings raise questions not only about the role of the local contexts, but also about our conceptualization of securitization, its thresholds and the relationship between securitization and the state of emergency. This blog post reviews the existing literature on securitizations of Covid-19 and summarizes the practical and theoretical challenges arising from the it.

Covid-19 and exclusion. Discourse approaches and a plea for a media-aesthetic perspective

Many of the measures taken to fight the pandemic are based upon differentiations between social groups. The visibility and relevance of these groups, the groups themselves and the ‘knowledge’ about them, especially the inclusions and exclusions associated with them, however, do not represent objective realities but are discursively constructed. Based on a review of discourse analytical literature on inclusions and exclusions in Covid-19 discourses, the blog post discusses how these discourses reconfigure the political. It makes a plea for integrating the media aesthetics of the audiovisual image in order to account for the multimodality of discursively reinforced inclusions and exclusions.