Covid-19 brings more questions than answers

By Dydimus and Cassandra 

 

The POEM community together with our partners and collaborators, though equally affected continue to investigate our inquiries on participatory memory practices. We observe and cherish how the collective humanity is trying to adapt and innovate, how we are creating memories of such a time together and wonder how it will be remembered. We question how this will redefine our participatory practices in memory making and consumption and how it will redefine cultures of youth and adults alike. Jennifer might wonder: Will online behaviors of youth remain the same? While Elina might ask: how will school children and their memory practices be affected? Tan’s perspective of othering and inclusivity in memory work, now needs to consider the changing political context. Covid-19 has forced countries to close borders while some politicians seize the opportunity to push nationalistic agendas against others. What effect will that have on efforts for political and cultural inclusivity and all other issues under Tan’s concept of ’othering’?

Lorenz’s enquiry into online mourning will surely expand in complexity. There is so much mourning today than usual as Covid-19 takes away our beloved ones. Are the current online mourning behaviors a clear depiction of online mourners or is it something temporary and specific to a pandemic as shocking as this? There is so much to observe online and offline about how this pandemic is redefining our values and practices of togetherness, love, compassion and public life based on our new realisation of how much we share and how vulnerable and powerless we all are as a human species. Perhaps it is the opportunity to consider Sean Bellamy’s (co-founder of Sands School and an Ashoka Foundation Change Leader) concern that Europe (and the world at large) should find ways to help people understand their shared identity while honoring their unique histories and cultures.

In the face of closure of many public services, memory institutions have not been spared. However, they have reacted through innovative interventions. (see POEM twitter for some of the reactions https://twitter.com/POEM_H2020 ). One would wonder if this is an opportunity for dominance of the digital. Never before have events and action shifted to the online so quickly. Conferences, workshops, lectures and all forms of meetings have somehow found their niche into the online environment. In as much as economies crumble in the face of shutdowns and investment towards reacting to the pandemic, companies such as Zoom, Google, Facebook and Amazon may be struggling to cope with the demand for their online services.

The utopian world of the future predicted by many scholars seems to be fast approaching. None may have predicted that a pandemic of such magnitude will catalyse the journey to what Levy Pierre calls ‘New Humanism’ where technology will usher us to other dimensions of existence in which “the cyberspace will liberate us from the social and political hierarchies that have stood on the way of mankind’s existence” (Pierre, 1997). The transition so quick to the digital brings more relevance to critical questions asked in the POEM work package three projects in which the role of digital infrastructures in participatory memory practices is interrogated. Issues such as ethics, security, privacy and affordability emerge among others. In addition, as Cassy hinted, what does this mean to the underprivileged who have no access to digital tools let alone to the internet?  Some of these questions are being discussed in recent blogs. For example, bringing together insights from critical disability studies and labour studies, University of Cape Town anthropologist and novelist Kharnita Mohamed provides a poetic critique of the debilitating rhythms of capitalism, reminding us of the tragedy of essential workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Such issues of inequality can be further read upon in a recent blog post, Home is where the front door is: Corona homemaking in the UK by Disruptive Inequalities, an ethnographic blog. The discussions and question posed by these blogs have significant implications on our envisioning of museums of the future. Specifically, we might ask what these disruptions for our diverse cultures and social identity as citizens of Europe and the world at large are? Such are questions we ponder on as we keep our social distance, wash hands frequently, sanitise and stay at home.

N.B.  The coronavirus crisis requires a response of unprecedented scale, speed and solidarity – the global research and innovation community is already mobilised but we need to do more. Please join the the coronavirus global response campaign!


Dydimus and Cassandra are POEM fellows based at Uppsala University and Glasgow University respectively. They have pleasure to periodically compile, edit and share this Newsletter with you. For feedback and contributions to the Newsletter, you can reach them at dydimus.zengenene@abm.uu.se and Cassandra.Kist@glasgow.ac.uk respectively. For now, they wish you safety in the face of Covid-19.

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Concepts, strategies and media infrastructures for envisioning socially inclusive potential futures of European Societies through culture.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 764859.