Engaged scholarship is needed to understand the socio-cultural, political and economic implications of COVID-19. The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Institute for the Humanities in Africa (HUMA), along with international collaborators, has launched Corona Times, a space where engaged scholars from across the world offer detailed, rigorously researched, ethical expert commentary that explores ways to grasp the wide-spread effects of the virus.
Scholars also propose ways forward and evaluate social, economic and public health interventions on multiple temporal scales.
Commentary thus far includes “Academic freedom in times of COVID-19”, “Social distancing and ‘flatten the curve’: Africa can do it” and “Trust in science and Sweden’s different approach to COVID-19”.
As the death toll increases and the negative economic effects deepen, there is no certain timeline related to when a vaccine might be ready, and it is not known when current measures of containment will end.
“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 it is still limited. Even more obscure are the socio-cultural, political and economic implications of the pandemic,” the editorial team said.
““Academic debate and pluralism can help us grapple with the many uncertainties provoked by the virus.”
“For example, what does contagion mean for people and their everyday lives; who or what do people hold responsible, if anybody or anything, for the onset of the pandemic; and how are people mourning their dead when in many cases they can’t perform their rituals of mourning?”
Thinking further, they said, what happens to ideas – such as government, state, citizenship, rights, and life itself – that have been used to theorise collective action and political community?
According to the editorial team, to rediscover our interconnectedness and warmth in these times of existential crisis, we need to rethink and remould ideas of freedom, responsibility and interdependence. Knowing how and when to restrain ourselves is also a fundamental freedom that nurtures individuals and societies.
Corona Times is a blog and public engagement project launched by UCT’s HUMA.
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