Taking a closer look at Singapore’s much lauded response to the pandemic, Sulfikar Amir’s contribution to the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series bring an important lens to the much-discussed question within disaster studies of how to evaluate resilience. In particular, the author shows the need to examine hidden vulnerabilities and inequalities in a society’s response to disaster, such as the treatment of migrant workers. While it is apparent that the government of Singapore learned important lessons from the response to the SARS outbreak in 2003, Amir shows that even with strong preparedness practices, governments may be prone to overlook marginalized groups within their jurisdictions, and that such blind spots have serious consequences.
Starting with SSRC president Alondra Nelson’s reflections on “Society after Pandemic,” this series of essays explores the human, social, political, and ethical dimensions of Covid-19. These pieces call attention to how social research can shed light on the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic and what can be done to improve responses, both now and in the future.
The publication of this series would not be possible if not for the help of the following SSRC staff:
Juni Ahari, communications and editorial assistant.
Cole Edick, program associate, Anxieties of Democracy and Media & Democracy programs.
Carrie Hamilton, program assistant, Social Data Initiative and Media & Democracy program.
Saarah Jappie, program officer, Transregional Collaboratory on the Indian Ocean.
Michelle Lee, program assistant, International Dissertation Research Fellowship.
Line Sidonie Talla Mafotsing, communications and editorial assistant, African Peacebuilding Network and Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa.
Daniella Sarnoff, program director, International Dissertation Research Fellowship.
Catherine Weddig, program assistant, Social Data Initiative and Media & Democracy program.
In this contribution to “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, John Sides interrogates the common assumption that Americans’ love of freedom and anti-authoritarian streak is behind resistance to enacting public health measures to fight Covid-19. Beyond the fact that significant majorities of Americans support and follow these measures, Sides also examines the role that political leaders play in shaping the views of those who resist behavior change. This is especially the case among some (but not all) Republicans given the messages from President Trump and party leaders.
Daniel F. Lorenz and Cordula Dittmer explore the sometimes-contradictory nature of postdisaster solidarity. Drawing on examples from the European context, they draw out the significant contribution context makes to utopian coming-together during pandemic lockdowns, reflecting on the experiences of those who are affected by these policies, but not primarily by illness itself. Even as the pandemic and its accompanying policies may create feelings of togetherness, especially among social equals with the necessary socioeconomic resources to manage limits on their mobility, more research will be necessary to understand whether these social phenomena can contribute to sustainable social change.
Public access cable channels have rarely been considered essential—that is until the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted every facet of public life. Often lampooned or ignored, these channels suddenly offered informational lifelines to more than 3,000 US communities desperate for local news, high school graduations, religious services, entertainment, and education. Their crisis performance underscores the potential for hyperlocal media, as well as the need for regulatory structures that bolster open society.
African Migrants’ Remittances: An Avenue of Giving and Receiving Severely Disrupted during the Covid-19 Lockdownby Dostin Mulopo Lakika
Remittance is one of the most perceptible forms of support that African migrants have always provided for their families back home. Studies show that the money such migrants send home is one of the largest sources of financial inflows to developing countries. Many migrant workers remit money back home despite their own precarious socioeconomic conditions in their host countries. They do so despite the fact that such remittances affect their quality of life and hamper the realization of their personal projects.
In the digital age, diary writing, often imagined as an individual and private phenomenon, can be both social and public. As Guobin Yang writes, the social lives of digital diaries written from the epicenter of a global pandemic, such as the “lockdown diaries” of Wuhan, China, took on unexpected cultural and political importance, at once unifying and polarizing a nation as the world looked on.
We learn of many crises only from the media—from far-way earthquakes to spectacular child abductions to life-changing national election results. But the Covid-19 crisis is so close — in our bodies, homes, communities, and schools—and yet we cannot see it. The pandemic poses profound representational challenges, writes Julia Sonnevend, confounding our collective ability to relate to it, to see the suffering, and to act.
With research on the social impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic now underway, Courtney Cogburn argues for examining who receives funding and conducts research, in particular with regard to the investigation of the racial dimensions of the crisis. Cogburn suggests that now is especially the moment for highlighting and supporting the work of scholars who have deep knowledge of and expertise on the racial inequalities embedded in the United States, as well as the inequities present in academic research.
An Italian citizen who returned from Milan to Lagos, on February 25, 2020, was confirmed as Nigeria’s index Covid-19 case by the Federal Ministry of Health on February 27, 2020. This provided ample time for the Nigerian government to take necessary preventive measures, including the closure of borders and requiring individuals coming into the country to quarantine themselves for two weeks. It took President Muhammadu Buhari one extra month to respond to the situation in two states (Lagos and Ogun) and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, which were experiencing high rates of Covid-19 prevalence.
In their essay for “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences,” Samantha Montano and Amanda Savitt break down the importance of event categorization for applied disaster response, and the need for researchers and science communicators to use these concepts consistently. Hearkening back to E. L. Quarantelli’s seminal work on the subject, Montano and Savitt revisit previous events that have helped define conceptual scales for catastrophic events and ask whether and how we should describe the Covid-19 pandemic as such. Considering the unique harms produced in the pandemic context (including widespread economic impacts, and the limits on resource-sharing that can respond in geographically limited disasters), the authors show how the framing of our research has long-reaching potential effects on policy and practice.