Collection: Global Discourse Most Read of 2021

 

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Global Discourse most read of 2021

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Muslim women of the Dawoodi Bohra community have recently been prosecuted because they customarily adhere to a religiously based gender-inclusive version of the Jewish Abrahamic circumcision tradition. In Dawoodi Bohra families it is not only boys but also girls who are circumcised. And it is mothers who typically control and arrange for the circumcision of their daughters. By most accounts the circumcision procedure for girls amounts to a nick, abrasion, piercing or small cut restricted to the female foreskin or prepuce (often referred to as ‘the clitoral hood’ or in some parts of Southeast Asia as the ‘clitoral veil’). From a strictly surgical point of view the custom is less invasive than a typical male circumcision as routinely and legally performed by Jews and Muslims. The question arises: if the practice is legal for the gander why should it be banned for the goose?

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Author: Ruth Wodak

This paper presents results from a comparative and qualitative discourse-historical analysis of governmental crisis communication in Austria, Germany, France, Hungary and Sweden, during the global COVID-19 pandemic lockdown from March 2020 to May 2020 (a ‘discourse strand’). By analysing a sample of important speeches and press conferences by government leaders (all performing as the ‘face of crisis management’), it is possible to deconstruct a range of discursive strategies announcing/legitimising restrictive measures in order to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic where everybody is in danger of falling ill, regardless of their status, position, education and so forth. I focus on four frames that have been employed to mitigate the ‘dread of death’ () and counter the ‘denial of death’ (): a ‘religious frame’, a ‘dialogic frame’, a frame emphasising ‘trust’, and a frame of ‘leading a war’. These interpretation frameworks are all embedded in ‘renationalising’ tendencies, specifically visible in the EU member states where even the Schengen Area was suddenly abolished (in order to ‘keep the virus out’) and borders were closed. Thus, everybody continues to be confronted with national biopolitics and body politics ().

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This article transects and articulates different disciplines and lines of thought in order to understand the redefinitions of the boundaries of political power in times of COVID-19, and the practices which may outlive the potential normalisation of the crisis when an efficient vaccine is discovered. We claim that the COVID-19 pandemic is an original form of governmentality by unease articulating three dimensions. First, the basic reaction of modern states when faced with uncertainty is to apply national-territorial logics of controls. Second, bureaucracies consider the virus as a danger to security and organise public health emergencies according to the rules of the game of national security, creating tensions between internal security, public health and the economy because policymakers may be unsure about the priorities and may prioritise border controls. Third, resistance against the chosen national policies show that people are not led by a politics of fear and/or protection, but rather their own concerns about themselves with peer-to-peer surveillance as a key element of their compliance. Contact tracing technologies and strategies of border controls are key elements to analyse. We do so in different contexts: the UK, the EU and Turkey.

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In this article, we present an analysis of narratives mobilised by extreme right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil, from March to December 2020. Our research indicates that, throughout that year, despite changes in the categories used, fear was continuously mobilised by the Brazilian president connecting an alleged ‘communist conspiracy’ to the coronavirus pandemic by creating narratives around the terms ‘Chinese virus’ and ‘Chinese vaccine’. Mapping these conspiratorial discourses, we hope to better understand (1) how Bolsonaro converts conspiracy theories into official state discourse as well as public policy, and (2) how Bolsonaro and his mediatic representatives weaponise tensions between individual freedom and public healthcare and the scientific community. Taking this scenario into account, we analyse how Bolsonaro uses social fear during the pandemic as part of his permanent campaign in a process resulting in serious risks to both public health and democracy.

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For many years, questions about the future have been marginalised within the social sciences: asking how we might live in a post-fossil society, or what are the key decisions and events that could take us there, has been seen as outside of the disciplinary scope. In this paper – which takes as its point of departure the ‘speculative turn’ that is increasingly inspiring a range of works, from foresight scenarios to design fiction – we insist on the need to invent methods and practices which provide speculative spaces that allow such questions to be articulated. We use our own speculative initiative, ‘The Museum of Carbon Ruins’, to foreground a series of ethical questions that accompany such speculative endeavours, but which have so far been neglected in contemporary discussions. Working within a critical utopian modality, Carbon Ruins does not foreclose ethical possibilities, but allows citizens to grapple with, evaluate, amend and critique the post-fossil futures that official policy is striving towards.

Open access