Call for Chapters: Power, Media, and Covid 19

Power, Media, and the Covid 19 Pandemic: framing public discourse

Edited by Stuart Price and Ben Harbisher (Media Discourse Centre, De Montfort University, UK)

Deadline – 20th May 2020:

Send Name, Title, Affiliation, followed by a 300-word Abstract (as an attachment and in the main body of the email) including focus, approach/method and academic references. Editorial response will be sent by or before 1st June. Send to cc’ing (Early Publication Date tbc – needless to say, we seek polished, well-referenced material that will help us meet our editorial deadlines – method of referencing will be Harvard, blended with our ‘house style’)

Overview of CfC and suggested topics

The Media Discourse Centre has secured the support of a major international publisher for the production of a book provisionally entitled Power, Media, and the Covid 19 Pandemic: framing public discourse. The immediate goal of this edited volume is to provide an in-depth, interdisciplinary critique of state, corporate, media and ‘citizen’ response to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. By response we mean both i) the discursive articulation of purposes, narratives, legal strictures and points of view (from supposedly authoritative briefings and the repetition of ‘scientific’ discourse, to social media tropes and disruptive political hypotheses) and ii) the often unpredictable material activities that public authority and its critics initiate, promote, or attempt to suppress or control (including the regimen of ‘social distancing’, socially ‘cohesive’ measures like Clap for Carers, the appearance of mutual aid networks, the global use of tracking apps, collective actions like the Brazilian pots and pans protests, Right-wing manifestations in the United States, and the apparently illegal practice of solitary sunbathing in public parks).

The ultimate purpose of the book, however, is not just to analyse the various perspectives and actions that gained traction during the first wave of infection, but to produce a text that helps ‘demythologise’ the (mediated) event, based in part on the work undertaken by health workers, investigative journalists, trade unions, anti-surveillance collectives and scientists (as well as by unconscious satirists like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro). A number of forces, knowingly or not, have provided a series of counter-narratives or perspectives that revealed, for example, the disconnection between official descriptions of a (PPE) ‘supply’ that never matched the ‘demand’ that was supposed to drive capitalism, or that offered an alternative to scientific rationality by destroying 5G towers on the basis that they helped spread the virus.

These reactions, among many others, constituted a political/popular challenge to an already confused cacophony of ‘messaging’ produced by competing power centres within state/corporate structures, national polities, and transnational institutions. While one strand of populist authoritarianism seemed to dismiss the virus as a damaging hoax (led by Bolsonaro in Brazil), and another used the crisis to centralise power (Orbán in Hungary), the leaders of systemic democracies, supported by their scientific and behavioural advisors, promoted a ‘lockdown’ that blended the discourses of public health, warfare (against an ‘invisible enemy’), national security and grassroots solidarity. Reactions varied from the strict shutdown imposed by Spain’s PSOE administration, to Britain’s combination of in-depth debate, patronising oversight and lackadaisical neoliberalism.

In the UK, politicians schooled in the practices of austerity had no choice but to amplify the heroism of key workers while they tried to satisfy the demands of those business patriarchs and elite social actors who bemoaned the interruption of ‘business continuity’. Meanwhile, the Covid crisis emphasised – by virtue of the procedural template circulated by the World Health Organisation, and the lens of a ‘globalised’ media – the critical divisions between political/economic systems, as much as it drew attention to the fact that it was often the poorest, most dedicated, and/or most oppressed in every country who bore the brunt of the disaster. A range of categories was used to designate these groups, including care workers, delivery drivers, ‘blue-collar’ personnel, the frail, elderly and/or ‘vulnerable’, and ‘front-line’ health-workers, with particular attention paid to BAME employees and women thrown into the maelstrom without adequate protection.

A project of this nature, as suggested above, will draw its material from research conducted in a number of countries, since a pandemic is by its nature transnational and thus best understood within the context of a comparative global study. In addition, the methodological range of the enquiry is bound to be extensive, limited only by the governing rationale of the enquiry undertaken. This does not, however, alter the focus of the collection, which is the interrogation of established, ‘politicised’ structures as they generated forms of public address, the comparative visibility and influence of social actors, the effects of media forms on the structure and delivery of messages, and the actual conduct of groups and individuals trying to survive in altered circumstances.

Topics can include, but are not limited to the following, which may, depending upon volume of receipt, become thematic clusters (prospective authors may nominate original fields of enquiry, provided they fall within our general remit):

  • Power, Contingency and the State
  • Authority, Protest and Mediated Resistance
  • Liberty, Lockdown, and Rights
  • Patriarchal and Racialised Discourses
  • Class Analysis of the Covid Crisis Response
  • Medical Discourses in Popular Form
  • Policing, Coercion and Consent
  • Investigative Journalism and Coronavirus
  • Trade Union and Political Communication
  • Discipline and Surveillance
  • Time, Space and Efficiency
  • Rhetoric of Governance
  • Experts and Expertise (e.g. WHO and SAGE)
  • Quarantine and Social Distancing
  • Pandemics and Propaganda
  • Mediation, Culture and Trauma
  • Grassroots Organisations and Mutual Aid
  • Behavioural Modelling and Society
  • Right-wing Conspiracies
  • Right-wing Press Discourses in the UK
  • Binary Constructs in Official Discourse
  • Clapping for Carers
  • Race, Orientalism and Difference
  • Austerity, PPE, and the NHS
  • Neoliberalism, Austerity and the Pandemic
  • Globalisation, Markets and Profiteering
  • Politics, Technology & Covid-19