Global Discourse
An interdisciplinary journal of current affairs

Crisis futures: COVID-19 and the speculative turning point of history

Author: Ravinder Kaur1
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  • 1 University of Copenhagen, , Denmark
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Covid-19 was widely pitched as a potential turning point of history, a rare crisis-as-opportunity by political leaders and policymakers. This claim of being at a revolutionary threshold, an exceptional time in history, and capitalising upon that claim to reshape the political-economic landscape is at the core of the speculative politics of crisis, or what I call crisis futures. COVID-19 was widely pitched as a potential turning point of history, a rare crisis-as-opportunity by political leaders and policymakers. Critical in this future-oriented discourse, I argue, is how time is invoked as a good in short supply, a precious opportunity, albeit one that can only be availed within a restricted period. This temporal limitation is what accrues speculative value to the crisis: the urgency to accelerate the desired change and to suspend any opposition to that change. Grounded in the event of the COVID-19 lockdown in India, the article unpacks multiple scales and speeds – of acceleration and slowdowns – that constitute the edifice of crisis futures. It traces how the pandemic crisis was capitalised on by the state, at once, to consolidate India as a commercial enclosure for global capital, as well as a cultural enclosure for Hindu majoritarianism. It asks what precisely is accelerated and what is put on hold, and which events or goals are turned into exceptions within an exceptional moment, such as a pandemic. Finally, the article looks at the modes of ‘im-mediation’ – mass-mediated communication and the activation of pandemic publics – which underpin the politics of crisis futures.

  • 1 University of Copenhagen, , Denmark

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