Covid-19 is a turning point in our common history, showing the vulnerability of our human life and the fragility of our social, economic and political systems. The most puzzling aspect for Social Science and Humanities research is to examine how Covid-19 – as a public health and systemic crisis – unfolded the way it did and to consider possibilities for post-pandemic transformations in their own complexity, uncertainty, contingency and context-specificity.
The Covid-19 crisis has transformed the interaction between states as well as the interactions within societies, and its impact on existing inequalities is thus difficult to forecast. Governance responses to the Covid-19 pandemic differ from earlier emergencies, such as wars and economic crises, insofar as the state seeks not to mobilise to meet a common challenge (as with War, communism or the New Deal) but rather to demobilise economic activity, politics and society (lockdowns). This factor will likely impact on resistance to and resilience from existing social inequalities. Equally, the trend of (de)mobilisation has been uneven and marked by contestation. Radical social movements against gender and racial inequality have mobilised during the pandemic and have articulated discursive responses (“racism is the real virus”). Some trade unions have reported revivals in numbers over fears surrounding health and safety. And new forms of political interaction have developed online, via digital channels from social media to communication platforms and alternative ways of taking over the streets. Similarly, defiance of lockdown restrictions as restrictions to civil liberties was mobilised by, particularly, the alternative right, authoritarian leaders in messages entangled with conspiracy theories and populism. Thus, new forms of mobilisation, with widely varying ideological framings, emerged against the backdrop of global pandemic control and state-regulated lockdowns.
The title of this project, "Endure" is inspired from the Japanese proverb “nana korobi ya oki”, which translates to “seven times down, eight times up”, pointing out the inner strength and resilience of communities in the aftermath of adversities. This project aims to capture the notion of community resilience (and resistance) which has historically been one of the main drivers of mobilisation and societal transformation. Adversities –either man-made or natural– exacerbate already existing vulnerabilities and reproduce new forms of social inequalities; but they also create the conditions for change. With ENDURE, we aim at studying this duality which has manifested itself evidently during the ongoing pandemic and provide a novel understanding for the new forms of inequalities and community responses. It is against this background that ENDURE aims to present a new perspective for recovery and renewal that is different from the mainstream top-down approaches which have been represented as the ultimate truth.
This research combines cutting-edge methodologies developed by the team members drawing on historical, sociological, political science, media studies and cultural research to examine how state-led (de)mobilisation impacts on the drivers of inequality, in order to assess the prospects for greater post-pandemic equity. ENDURE will develop comparative, transatlantic perspectives on the uneven responses to the Covid-19 crisis and how this has impacted on inequality.
ENDURE is guided by three main objectives:
ENDURE will examine how state-led responses to the Covid-19 pandemic impact on the drivers of inequality, with a particular focus on (de)mobilisation and lockdown in comparative perspective, to ensure that future crisis interventions are founded on evidence-based insights. We undertake a comparative analysis of the capacity of governments and international organizations; political accountability of measures taken (e.g. lockdowns, curfews) and its consequences on democratic governance, freedoms and rights.
ENDURE will analyse how the pandemic impacted on “populist”, anti-establishment, anti-political and anti-expert narratives in politics and the media, to understand how emergencies impact on trust and legitimacy. For this objective, we will conduct a quantitative survey and develop a qualitative analysis of social media based on AI-led content analysis.
ENDURE will analyse the ways in which the victims of inequality found routes to survival and resistance during the pandemic, to ensure that “build back better” discourses incorporate grassroots agency as well as top-down leadership. In order to achieve this goal, the project will use a variety of innovative methods, including kino-eye and participatory action research; map social movement mobilisation during the lockdown, and deploy ethnographic methods to analyse how oppressed groups exerted their agency.
ENDURE in five research clusters will provide answers to the following main questions:
How did local, national and global governance actors address the challenge of crisis and implement more or less effective disaster governance?
How are groups differentially (de-)mobilized and in-/excluded during and in the wake of Covid-19 and related crises according to societal inequalities and individual vulnerabilities?
How did the pandemic affect critical public attitudes on inequity, (il-)liberal values and societal resilience levels, laying the groundwork for recovery or social stress?
How, through social media, did communication of the pandemic generate (mis)information flows and networks as an effective basis for policies under the pandemic, and how did popular response form and generate networks shaped by solidarity and affection, or distrust and hate, to mobilize resistance strategies? How can they promote healing and reparation after the pandemic or challenge pandemic recovery?
How have societies transformed as a result of the pandemic; what resilience-scapes emerged and how can we ensure their sustainability?
- Governance in times of crisis: (De-)Mobilization of Locked down and Vaccinated Publics
- Cluster II - Challenging Inequalities in the Post-COVID World: Mobilization, Agency and Belonging
- Cluster III - A Survey Study on Public Attitudes and Resilience After Crisis Events: Assessing (Il-)liberal Values and Social Stress
- Cluster IV - Mobilising (d/mis)information and communities: Governance Rhetoric, Polarization and Empathy
- Cluster V - Innovation Mode: Interdisciplinary Knowledge synthesis of ENDURE