In her contribution to our “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Natasha Iskander analyses labor migration in the midst of the pandemic and the ways in which migrants are multiply vulnerable. She reports on her research on labor camps in Qatar and the state’s deployment of a cordon sanitaire in the wake of the coronavirus’ spread, situating this current use of the cordon into a broader historical perspective on its use as a tool for excluding marginalized groups. Iskander connects Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers to a vision of the state’s high-tech future in which laborers are increasingly disposable—a vision that the pandemic may be brutally helping to realize.
With much of the world still in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, one thing is certain—in ways large and small, there is no return to a previous “normal.” In the early months of the crisis, we have seen examples of both new solidarities and self-interest. While everyone is adjusting to new risks, vulnerabilities have fallen most heavily on the already vulnerable. Will responses to the crisis alleviate inequalities or reinforce them? In the essays below, scholars reflect on the wide-ranging effects of the pandemic in all corners of society, and consider what might come after.