Call for papers (RGS-IBG 2021): Governing the Covid-19 pandemic

Call for papers, RGS-IBG Annual Conference, online paper session(s).

Governing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Convenors: Nick Clarke (University of Southampton) and Clive Barnett (University of Exeter).

Much public debate during the Covid-19 pandemic has focused on the problem of compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions. Key questions in this debate have included: what are the rules, are they tight enough, are people complying with them, and, if not, why not? These questions reduce the problem of governing pandemic response to a narrow moral focus on rule specification and rule following. However, governing the conduct of people during the pandemic has operated through a range of strategies beyond formal rules. The rationalities and technologies have been numerous and varied, from lockdown regulations and associated penalties, to public health messaging and guidance, to financial support and incentives, to appeals that people use ‘common sense’ in assessing risks and making ethical judgements. Furthermore, in responding to guidance, norms, recommendations, and risks associated with the virus, people have innovated their own practices to manage their own behaviour and responsibilities. They have participated critically in debates on public health issues around the categorisation and treatment of vulnerable groups. They have developed new routines and practices of hygiene, parenting, caring for family and friends, neighbouring, work, shopping, travel, media consumption/production, and so on.

We invite abstracts for an online paper session focused on the general topic of ‘governing the Covid-19 pandemic’, including any of the specific topics listed below. Depending on the response, it may be possible to convene two sessions: one focused on attempts by governments to shape the conduct of citizens and residents; and a second focused on attempts by people to manage their own risks and responsibilities. Potential topics for papers include:

  • Following the science.
  • Regulations, guidance, and messaging.
  • Compliance/non-compliance.
  • Government support and the capacity of individuals and groups.
  • Liberty, common sense, and ethical dilemmas.
  • Ordinary discourses of disadvantage, privilege, and responsibility.
  • The uses of scientific literacy (by government, scientists, news media, ordinary people).
  • Understandings and practices of good citizenship during the pandemic.

Please send expressions of interest, including author names and affiliations, and paper titles and abstracts (250 words max.) to n.clarke@soton.ac.uk and c.barnett@exeter.ac.uk by 26 February.

Researching Popular Responses to Covid-19

Welcome to the website for the Learning to Live with Risk and Responsibility: Understanding Popular Responses to COVID-19 project, led by Nick Clarke in collaboration with Clive Barnett. The project is funded by the the British Academy Special Research Grants: Covid-19 scheme, and will run from 2020 to 2022.

The project investigates how people in the UK have negotiated the myriad demands made upon them during the COVID-19 pandemic to act responsibly in novel ways because of the risks their behaviour poses to themselves and others, and due to their role in complex chains of causation. Making use of contemporaneous qualitative data available through the Mass Observation Project, we seek to develop a better understanding of how people interpreted conflicting demands to act responsibly in relation to COVID-19 and translated them into practices of everyday life.

We will post updates on the project on this site including regular blog posts discussing different aspects of the research.

Do please read the Research Summary for the project.