Reflections on a post-corona-time
From Goethe Institut
A virus is showing us how globally networked and yet how fragile our public life is. What does the pandemic mean to and for each of us and for society as a whole? Here are some responses from intellectuals and artists around the world with regard to our present predicament and what lies in store for us afterwards.
Romila Thapar – Historian, from New Delhi
Romila Thapar is Emeritus Professor of History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, where she was Professor of Ancient Indian History from 1970 to 1991. She was General President of the Indian History Congress in 1983 and is a Fellow of the British Academy and holds an Honorary D.Litt. each from Calcutta, Oxford and Chicago Universities, among others.
Was globalization not meant to be improving standards of living, eliminating poverty, providing health care for all, educating everyone and upholding human rights and social justice? May we ask what happened? Can globalization be defended as a continuing future form? Today all our aspirations are being cremated daily and one waits for the devastation of the earth.
Michael Zichy – Philosopher, from Salzburg
Michael Zichy is an Austrian philosopher. He studied philosophy at the University of Salzburg, where he graduated in 1997. His major fields of research are philosophical anthropology, where he is an expert in the theory of different understandings of the human being, and ethics. He is working in the field of philosophy of language, and he is interested in philosophical diagnoses of the present time.
The corona crisis has put the globally networked economic system on hold, thereby exposing its vulnerability; it is forcing states into massive debt and back inside their nation-state boundaries; and last but not least, it is plunging people into uncertainty, threatening their livelihood and subjecting them to extreme psychological pressure. But the crisis also makes it clear that states and societies can counteract the crisis by taking resolute concerted action. Like any pivotal experience, it will ensure that things do not continue the way they were before.
Oleg Nikiforov – Publisher, from Moscow
Oleg Nikoforov is a Moscow-based publisher. He is editor-in-chief of LOGOS Publishers and project coordinator of Lettera.org (including off-university; SloWar.tv; post-babel.ru; #100Revolution(s) etc.). He holds a PHD in Philosophy and is specialized in the existential analytics of Martin Heidegger’s and philosophy of media. LOGOS Publishers is focused on the development of the analytical and pragmatical potential of the humanitarian knowledge in contemporary Russia.
My hope is a new unity of humanity, despising its “yesterday’s” Babylonian scattering, in our laughing at the formal distinctions of races, classes, nations and historical circumstances. Indeed, the challenging power, opposing the mankind now as COVID-19, does not recognize these differences, – and why should we?
Anne Weber – Author and Translator, from Paris
Anne Weber (b. 1964 in Offenbach, Germany) has been based in Paris since 1983. Her oeuvre ranges widely from the “mythological novel” Tal der Herrlichkeiten (“Valley of Splendours”) to the autobiographical essay Ahnen. Ein Zeitreisetagebuch (“Ancestors: Diary of a Journey Through Time”) about her own family history. She always writes two versions of her books, one in French and one in German, and also translates literary works by other writers into French and German.
President Macron spoke of war, a war that I, armed with soap and disinfectant, am supposed to fight mainly by holing up at home. Another war awaits me there: the war against myself and my fears, which no soap will wash away and for which there is no cure.
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Eva Illouz – Professor for Sociology, at Jerusalem and Paris
Eva Illouz was born in Fez, Morocco, raised and educated in France and then later in Israel and the United States. Currently, she is a full professor in the Department of Sociology at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and Directrice d’Etudes at the EHESS in Paris. Her research interests include sociology of culture, sociology of emotions, sociology of capitalism, and the effect of consumerism and mass media on emotional patterns.
the young people who see and experience firsthand what the collapse of the world may look like will know how to monitor the world better. Short of that, there will no longer be a public or a private interest to defend. It will become nasty and brutal, as the Philospher Thomas Hobbes said, it is about the state of men in nature.
Urvashi Butalia – Author and Publisher, from Delhi
Urvashi Butalia is a feminist writer and publisher. She co-founded Kali for Women, India’s first feminist publishing house and is currently Director of Zubaan, an imprint of Kali. She has a long involvement in the women’s movement in India and writes and published widely on issues related to women and gender. Her best known published work is the award-winning history of Partition titled The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India. She is currently completing a new non fiction work on the life of a transwoman. She was awarded the Goethe Medal in 2017.
As I write, there are hundreds of thousands of informal workers are crowded together at the border of my city,Delhi, waiting to go to their villages. They have no food, no water and they are fully at risk because there is no question of social distance or even masks. The lockdown is a luxury the rich can afford, for the poor, there’s nothing.
Georg Seeßlen – Journalist, from Munich
Georg Seeßlen (b. 1948 in Munich) studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He is a freelance journalist and writer.
The crisis can’t go on forever, otherwise it wouldn’t be a crisis, but the end. The crisis is an interruption; whether it is also a break with the past remains to be seen. All sorts of different forces are at work in it; it is a period in which some forms of action are curtailed or even completely prohibited, while others are expanding.
Dan Perjovschi – Illustrator, from Bucharest
Dan Perjovschi lives in Bucharest and Sibiu. He employs direct humour in drawing on museum walls all over the word in a political, social and cultural comment on the everyday life of global society. His works are a synthesis of media drawings, graffiti, commix and raw art.
Free to think. Forbidden to move. It is a slowdown shutdown sort of wake-up. We will never ever stop by will. We stop only by force. Global quarantine? Who would imagine? Borders closed inside Europe? European citizens forbidden to pass en route to their home country? Oh boy!…
Nanjira Sambuli – Political Scientist, from Nairobi
Nanjira Sambuli comes from Kenya and is a political scientist and Internet activist. As an expert on digital equality, she advises institutions such as the United Nations and the World Economic Forum on Internet law and digital cooperation, particularly with regard to gender equality. In 2016, she was named one of the 100 most influential personalities in the new Africa. Nanjira Sambuli collaborated with the Goethe-Institut in 2017 on the presidential election in Nairobi and took part in the Weimar International Cultural Symposium in 2019.
The rug under which much of the country’s problems — mostly stemming from exclusionary politics and governance — had been swept, has been lifted. We must deal with the mess. The current administration finally has to work to survive.
Yudhanjaya Wijeratne – Author, from Colombo
If language is a way of denoting concepts and the relationships between them, the coronavirus has become the concept of an unknown future, plagued by recession, the retreat of freedoms formerly taken for granted, a world bending away from the rights of the individual and privileging those of the community
Génesis Alayón – Visual artist, from Caracas
Génesis Alayón (Villa de Cura, State of Aragua, 1995) is student of the last semester of Visual Arts at the Universidad de Los Andes. As an artist her searches and concerns revolve around social plots through portraiture, among which themes such as displacement, absence and belonging stand out.
I can compare this to an endless play where we all act to be well. Since before I was born everyone was acting, “this is going to happen”. Many actors have left the scene and others were forced to leave the theatre. This pandemic has invaded the scene with an atmosphere of uncertainty, but this has to make us stronger.
Dossym Satpayev – Political scientist, from Almaty
The crisis situation that has emerged is a new object of research and a case study on crisis management. It is also a case study on human psychology in emergency situations, when many are out of their comfort zones. In Kazakhstan, it is a new challenge for the authorities and society, a kind of indicator which revealed many problems.
DETACH – Curators, from Athen
DETACH is a curatorial duo consisting of Voltnoi & Quetempo. They are both founding members of the drog_A_tek collective and they have curated festivals and events such as Enter Afrofuturism, Blockchain: Utopia or U–turn?, The Death of Recorded Music, Movement 1920-2020, Beyond & Between Borders. They both live and work in their hometown, Athens, Greece.
Voltnoi Brege is a multimedia artist, founding member of the audiovisual groups drog_A_tek and The Erasers, the cultural centre BIOS, and the DETACH art collective. Currently he works as an independent curator.
Makis Kentepozidis, known as Quetempo, is a member of drog_A_tek and DETACH working on sound text desire of everyday life critique.
Our Covid-19 forced entertainment via Zoom/Skype/Houseparty or other video platforms is becoming our new multiple selfie. A new Lernaean Hydra in real time. A new mass pop perception/consumption of the screen has arrived. Check your resolution now!
Sampson Wong – Artist, from Hongkong
Sampson is a contemporary artist and urbanist from Hong Kong. His projects focus on emerging ‘publicness’ and critical creativity. He co-founded the Hong Kong Urban Laboratory, EmptyScape and the art collective Add Oil Team. He has actively participated in and also reflected on the protests in Hong Kong since June 2019.
The hegemony of the authoritarian Chinese regime is finally facing a huge challenge to its incessant rise to power in the last decade. People around the world will remember that the Chinese government’s cover up and censorship were crucial factors that lead to a global pandemic.
Paul Diamond – Author, từ Wellington
(Ngāti Hauā, Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi) was appointed as the Inaugural Curator Māori at the Alexander Turnbull Library in 2011. He worked as an accountant for seven years before switching to journalism in 1997. In 2017 he undertook a research fellowship at the National Library of Australia in Canberra, to enhance the description of Māori collections at the NLA. Paul is the author of three books (Savaged to Suit: Māori and Cartooning in New Zealand, 2018; Makereti: taking Māori to the World, 2007; A Fire in Your Belly — Māori Leaders Speak), and has also worked as an oral historian and broadcaster. In 2017 Paul was awarded Creative New Zealand’s Berlin Writer’s Residency to complete a book about Charles Mackay, a mayor of Whanganui who was killed in Berlin in 1929.
After a month of enforced rest from rampant consumerism, will New Zealanders keep doing the things they did while they weren’t shopping? More broadly, the pandemic will force a rethink of the whole basis of our economy.
Bence Fliegauf – Author and Director, from Budapest
Bence Fliegauf is a writer, director, production designer and sound designer who lives between Budapest and Berlin. He is a father of two. In his movie, he shows global scenes of the pandemic.
Covid Pandemic is a perfect occasion to update our value system. Without religion and the concept of God, our world is not a cold and empty square mesh. It’s a magically complex place. Do we really need Karma to behave fairly to each other? Do we really need the devil to understand the force of entropy?
Rachida Lamrabet – Author, from Brussel
I see people dreaming and thinking out loud. I believe we have the ability to reimagine our world, to refute the dogma of “There is no alternative.” We could create a future that is better than the world we live in.
Giang Dang – Scientist and Activist, from Hanoi
Giang Dang is a Hanoi-based researcher, activist and book author. He runs a local NGO working in good governance and transparency. In pioneering initiative, over the last 10 years, his organization collects citizen’s experience across the country to measure the performance of local governments. As one of the leaders of Vietnamese civil society, he promotes democratic and humanistic values such as diversity, tolerance and empathy. He has published several non-fiction books which are widely influential in Vietnam.
They say a crisis lays bare what’s already there. It’s certainly true with the Vietnamese nationalism. Blinded by their hatred against China, many Vietnamese celebrate Trump like a hero, because he called the Corona virus the Chinese virus.
Esther Dischereit – Author, from Berlin
Esther Dischereit is a Berlin-based writer of novels, short stories, essays, poetry and plays for radio and the stage. Based in Berlin, Dischereit is regarded as a leading figure of second-generation German Jewish literature after the Holocaust. Her prose works include Joëmis Tisch – Eine jüdische Geschichte (1988) (English title: “Joëmi’s Table), Übungen jüdisch zu sein (1996) (Lessons in Being Jewish), and Blumen für Otello. Über die Verbrechen von Jena (2014) (Flowers for Othello: On the Crimes that Came Out of Jena), about a series of racially motivated murders and bomb attacks committed by a terrorist organization called the National Socialist Underground from 1998 to 2011. In 2020 she published Sometimes a Single Leaf, a book of German poetry with English translations by Iain Galbraith, and a collection of essays entitled Mama darf ich das Deutschlandlied singen (Mama, May I Sing the German National Anthem).
Maybe those who’ve still got a job and a flat will end up being a lousy minority. An envied little clique who get to travel the world as much as they like, spreading emissions across the globe – and planning flights to the moon because Antarctica is melting and bears in the woods are dying of diseases somehow caused by the heat.
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