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IGHC calls for special COVID-19 working paper contributions

McMaster’s Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition seeks contributions — 750 to 1000 words — to its refereed Working Paper Series. The deadline for submissions is May 4, 2020.

Apr 16, 2020


As increasing numbers of countries across the globe impose exceptional measures to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves facing an unprecedented (but predictable and, indeed, predicted) global emergency. While we cannot fully know how this rapidly changing situation will impact our everyday lives in the long run, we can already begin to glimpse its magnitude at various scales. This is an opportunity to share our thoughts and expertise with one another and more broadly, helping to envision the longer-range and multidimensional significance of the pandemic.

As the rate of contagions and deaths accelerates and more and more countries join the global lock-down, satellite photographs begin to show a significant reduction in CO2 levels. Images of crystal-clear waters running through, for example, the Venice canals and of wild animals venturing into the now-deserted urban landscapes appear. So do warnings about the disastrous effects of the pandemic in crowded cities, the global south, and for those who live in conditions marked by underfunded infrastructures. At the same time, social and political awareness of the fragility of this planet, and the importance of forms of work and care that have often been invisible, seems to have increased. All of this, and more, invites reflection and fresh thinking about post-pandemic social possibilities and worlds. 

In the present, new surveillance techniques often appear as the only viable alternative to the state of exception that is being imposed across the world in the fight against the epidemic crisis. National borders and solutions once again gain importance in detriment of transnational alliances. We are bombarded with numbers (of infected, of recovered, of dead) and new scientific advances (or hopes of these) every day. A series of potentially dangerous signifiers, some more familiar than others, begin to stand out in the narrative construction of this crisis: “quarantine,” “social distancing,” “sanitary crisis,” “death,” “virus,” “war,” “invisible enemy.” Yet, the sense of urgency that reaches us through the media often contrasts with the deceleration of our everyday lives, as we see our work and other “normal” activities suspended. 

For many of us, our sense of time-space compression is altered as well. Distances begin to matter in different ways. We are told to stand two meters apart. Physical human contact stops or becomes highly exclusive. We learn to communicate via new means, often through the looking-glass of a computer screen. The social and political is reformulated through the virtual and new forms of solidarity emerge. How are we to think through, rather than just chronicle, this emerging reality in front of our eyes? How are we to come to grips with different forms and experiences of this crisis - given different responses to it across countries and continents, and also given global health inequalities and digital divides? Who gets to narrate this crisis? What are the ephemeral and more lasting implications of this crisis? Where do we see risks, potentialities and implications? What do we fear and hope for?

At IGHC we think it is essential to critically engage and reflect on the present situation and what the future may hold. We are in urgent need of generating new tools for understanding the reality that unfolds at this very moment. This includes thinking across disciplines and research domains. To encourage this collective effort, we call for a Special COVID-19 Working Paper, and seek brief contributions (750 – 1000 words max) from researchers engaging with any of the aspects sketched above, or with any other urgent issues relevant to the present situation.   

The deadline for contributions is May 4, 2020. We are aware that this time frame is very short, but we believe it is important to publish these responses in the near future (May/June 2020). The texts will be reviewed directly by the director and associate director of IGHC to speed up the process of publication. Please contact Petra Rethmann ( and/or Tony Porter ( for further information and to submit your contribution.