[Pandemos] New threat, new thread: Corona-reflections

I have started a new thread, mostly in German with this brief English overview, and the category’s title Pandemos is a mere working title so far. It may still change, just like the complete anatomy and format of the whole thread. The basic idea is to store my thoughts related to the Covid19 pandemic in some or another way. Compared to the early days of the pandemic, I feel more relaxed now, as I think I have finally figured out how to unload the heavy cargo of thoughts and observations. Once this thread is filled, I hope to turn it into an E-Book, as a collaction of essays. At the moment, it is growing smoothly, step by step. If you should find yourself in a similar (strange!) mood as I do – that is: writing down all your thoughts, as if you were „possessed“ by them – please feel invited to join the Corona-Reflexionen by contributing your own perspectives (whether in German, English, or other languages doesn’t matter). So far, I published two entries: Corona-Reflexionen (I) and Kollateralschäden des Nichtverstehens der Welt. After a third introductory piece, I shall share reflections on the following topics, or rather bundles of topics. Some of them already exist in a written form, but still need some revision, while others are still (audio) memos or simple notes. Please find short abstracts of each bundle or chapter.

Corona, family-networks and borders

In this chapter, I ask myself how Corona has affected my family network, which is organizing itself in mainly four different countries (these are Austria, Germany, Bosnia, and Croatia). How has my familiy coped with the sudden closure of borders and the reemergence of the „national container“? How have they handled serious health issues in different countries – some of them under quarantine? How did Corona affect me, and how did it make me move (preliminarily) to my sister’s place in a small town on the Hesse-Bavarian border? The challenges to diasporic families under conditions of Corona is a relevant and burning topic for so many: most people I know are organized in „transnational families“. The closure of borders, the different national Corona strategies and regimes on the one hand side – and the lived reality of many people on the other do often clash: this clash or contradiction between a pandemic, which is a veritable „pan-phenomenon“ or, in other words, „a cosmopolitan“ – and the organizational form of national confinement form a complex predicament with no immediate and simple answer: not every problem can be solved via zoom. Yet, it is still necessary grasping and identifying the problem as such – as a contradiction – if we were to find more suitable solutions.

Corona in my bubble

It all starts at home: Corona infiltrated literally every little corner of life and organizational patterns. How were my physical and virtual environments affected by Corona – and more importantly, what was the impact of the measures of confinement, lockdown and physical/social distancing? What kind of discussions were predominant in the early, panicking period – and how have these discussions changed over time? How have friends and relatives in Bosnia, Turkey or France reported their experiences? It is impressive how the catastrophic mindset (at least in my bubble) has adapted to or even appeased with Corona. Literally everything was now in a catastrophic mode: as if somebody had moved a lever, upon which everything seemed to be under a huge question-mark. How and when was my dissertation’s defense going to take place? What about monthly salaries, bills and rents to be paid? Whither future prospects, research proposals – and how should I now study Hermannova and the Krivaja valley? This bundle of topics is the most difficult and important to fill, I fear, because the emotions which appeared so suddenly and massive may easily disappear and fall into oblivion. To preserve them is some sort of an archivar’s work, but it is also revealing of how public opinions form during the pandemic.

The Public Opinion, Corona and the www

How was the wider public opinion affected by Corona and the undertaken measures? With public opinion, I refer to leading topics, discussions, conflicts and phenomena in the socio-political sphere, such as the „hygiene demonstrations“ allover Germany; the mingling of far-right proponents with urban lifestyle-activists (e.g. the Attila Hildmann- case), esoteric circles, conspirational theorists, etc. Much was written and said on neo-populists (e.g. the trash-governance of Trump), and what particularly challenges me about it is the seeming contradiction between the notorious retrospect of neo-populists (e.g. Erdoğan’s Neo-Ottomanism, Trump’s ‚Make America Great Again‘, Germany’s „Reichsbürger“, etc.) and its overly obvious inadequacy: the world is a www, a world wide web – and nobody will be able to return to the past. The latter is often (wrongly) believed to have been a place that was more handy, more manageable, much safer. I will discuss these contradictions by taking into consideration translational theories and how we understand the world – while we may say that we don’t understand the world: translation refers to trans-ferre, to the undertaking of turning the uncanny into something familiar, well-known; into something known from the past. I will argue that this dynamic needs to be taken seriously, but it must be dismantled as a trap.

Public Health, Corona and the failure of neo-re-movements

Every layperson has opinions on public health nowadays, in the days of Corona – and so do I. Here, I observe not so much how well or how bad the public health sector really is (in different countries, but mainly in Germany, Bosnia, France, Turkey and amongst other global players like China and Russia). I will rather focalize how public health resonates, again, in the production of public opinions, through what I have termed „Aidprop“ (cf. Agitprop). I will readdress the topic of neo-populism (or rather „neo-re-movements“), and why neo-populist governance must fail – very practically. Especially in this realm (public health), where I am beyond doubt a layperson, but also with regard to the whole realm of „tech“, I will discuss the problem with specialization of knowledge and the need for redefining education or general education.

Ambiguities of the forest

The bundle Ambiguities of the forest and the next two chapters are rather conclusions of the preceding ones. Corona not only literally drove me into the forest (into a very dry forest, by the way): the pandemic also made me profit from the long walks through the awakening beech forests in a bizarre, volcanic landscape. I also partly reflect on the forest as a topic of my doctoral thesis‘ defense, because my second thesis to be defended treats the ambiguities of „The German forest in Heinrich Heine’s words“. The forest is also one of the grand topics of our days: the new year started with burning forests in Australia and elsewhere; again, one may add, bearing in mind the great forest fires worldwide and in Europe, especially in 2018. Wildfires make the global climate catastrophe sensible to larger publics, although not to the same extent as Corona. But how has Corona to do with the forest? – Corona’s origin probably lures in the forest, in some bat cave or similar. The notion of the anthropocene places humans in the center of the new weltbild and zeitgeist. If this were true, every measure to be applied in order to change the world was a change in the animal kingdom, which human beings are being considered a part of. Yet, the virus as a non-animal (non-plant, non-fungus, non-bacterium) symbolizes the meeting place of the human-made division of life-forms into regnum animalia, regnum plantae, etc.

The world is unhinged

The world is unhinged, many people feel they don’t understand it anymore, and Corona was not precisely helpful in achieving a better understanding of it – at the first glance, at least. On the other hand, Corona can be seen as an epitome for the urgent need for normative cosmopolitization (and here, I refer to Ulrich Beck). „Our time“, as I see it, can be understood as some sort of interregnum (Gramsci), when ‚the old‘ is dying, while ‚the new‘ cannot emerge – because it is, perhaps, caught as a pupa in high metamorphosis. But interregnum can also have another meaning: the inter-est of all of the above mentioned regna of the animated and unanimated world.

Midwifery (to the world)

In German, I called this bundle „Geburtshilfe“ (midwifery), because I refer to the stuck-in-inbetweenness of the last chapter: we know what the world is not anymore, but we don’t know what it is now, and to an even lesser extent do we envision what it will be; with regard to this predicament, where the retrospect of the neo-populists cannot help, but only escalate the situation, Hannah Arendt’s claim of nativity proves most helpful: in her thought, nativity means that there are always windows of opportunities for the New to come into the world, to be born.


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