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Open Access (free)
Melanie Smallman
and
Caroline Redhead

The Introduction to this book takes the reader on a journey from the COVID-19 Downing Street briefing room, with its data, graphs, diagrams and supporting cast of scientific and medical advisers, offering advice from behind their protective podium, into the everyday pandemic world. In this much messier human world, people are more than data points to be studied, counted, governed and regulated. They are experiencing the effects of the briefing room decisions in everyday pandemic lives. This is the world in which the humanities researchers whose contributions shape this book have brought their expertise to bear, aiming to bridge the gap between the briefing room and the pandemic world, and to help decision-makers do better the next time. The introduction to Governance, Democracy and Ethics in Crisis-decision-making describes how the book brings together the findings from contributors’ research projects, linked by a focus on how decisions have been made, but looking at the pandemic from very different perspectives. These perspectives have in common an interest in whether (and how) values featured in pandemic governance and decision-making, and sometimes why they did not. The Introduction’s authors conclude by asking readers of the book to consider whether the pandemic was an extra-ordinary event from which we learn systemic lessons, or, rather, whether the tone set by those in the briefing room marginalised, disabled or ignored systems and processes that were already sufficiently dynamic and flexible to have enabled a different (better?) approach.

in Governance, democracy and ethics in crisis-decision-making
The pandemic and beyond
Fred Cooper
and
Des Fitzgerald

The introduction to Knowing COVID-19 sets out the challenge of making the pandemic knowable, and situates the work of the humanities in that collective epistemological project. In the face of often quite concerted efforts to make important meanings slip away, humanities research took a proactive, immediate role in exploring complexity, cataloguing particular kinds of adversity and harm, and rendering a swiftly changing world more legible. With specific attention to the Lateral Flow Test, Cooper and Fitzgerald reflect on the humanities expertise that makes 'good' - as opposed to obscured, constrained, or partial - knowing possible, even in something so seemingly scientifically bounded as detecting the presence of the virus in saliva. They then outline the eight thematic chapters, and place them in a wider story of epistemology in the pandemic humanities.

in Knowing COVID- 19
Harnessing the power of nature, enhancing resilience and learning lessons from the literary heritage sector
David Rudrum
and
Helen Williams

Across the UK there are over seventy museums in writers’ homes and birthplaces open to the public. These include world class tourist destinations as well as underloved gems. All were profoundly impacted by COVID-19, in ways unique to the literary heritage sector. This chapter draws from the UKRI-AHRC Covid-19 Rapid Response project, ‘UK Literary Heritage Sites and Covid-19: Measuring Impact, Enhancing Resilience, and Learning Lessons’. It describes the efforts of heritage practitioners from the UK’s literary house sector in responding to COVID-19 and in finding new ways for the public to access English literature at a time when it was never more in demand. Lockdowns and furloughs brought many changes in our behavioural patterns, including a reconnection with the importance of nature, brought about by stringent COVID-19-related restrictions, which curtailed the time we could spend outside. Simultaneously, there was an upsurge in the public’s appetite for reading – especially of longer, more demanding literature. Seemingly, these two trends were unrelated, since reading is often an indoor pursuit. However, as this article will demonstrate, UK literary heritage sites repeatedly found creative ways to connect them, with a view to mutually enhancing the benefits of both for health and wellbeing. We have long known that nature and exercise have positive impacts on health and wellbeing, and that reading literature can too, but COVID-19 lockdowns led many writers’ house museums to seek out innovative ways of combining the benefits of both, indicating a positive direction for the literary heritage sector to take in moving on from the pandemic.

in Creative approaches to wellbeing
Open Access (free)
Creative methods towards pedestrian equity
Dee Heddon
,
Maggie O’Neill
,
Clare Qualmann
,
Morag Rose
, and
Harry Wilson

Walking Publics/Walking Arts: Walking, Wellbeing and Community during COVID-19 was an AHRC-funded research project which explored how adults across the UK experienced walking during the COVID-19 pandemic and the role that creativity played in sustaining walking activities. Employing a range of methods, from a large-scale survey to walking interviews and artist commissions, the research identified the potential of the arts to sustain, encourage and more equitably support walking during and recovering from a pandemic. Engaging with the idea of ‘just walking’ – an activity that is presumed to be simple and accessible to all, and the need to advocate for equitable access to walking activities – this essay addresses a range of barriers to participation. Drawing on research collaborations with partner organisations and artists, including Sheffield Environmental Movement and Open Clasp Theatre, we share examples of how creative walking practices can engage diverse groups of participants and engender new connections between people and place, centring the knowledge and experiences of those often excluded. The artistic work produced through creative walking practices offers insight into and wider understanding of exclusions, and routes to ‘just walking’. Acknowledging the widespread benefit of walking to physical and mental health, we stress that the invitation to walk must be located within and used as part of wider movements for tackling systemic inequalities.

in Creative approaches to wellbeing
The pandemic and beyond

Knowing COVID-19 looks at how different kinds of knowledge and meaning have been created and communicated, and the repercussions this has had – and continues to have – for how COVID-19 is managed, experienced, understood and remembered. Knowledge-making, it suggests, took various forms, and these are reflected in the diversity of chapters this volume curates. In the first instance, it demonstrates a rich humanities tradition of constructive critique, as ‘official’ communications around ‘staying home’, ‘keeping distance’, safety on buses, lateral flow testing and vaccine hesitancy are tested and interrogated. Through this collective work, we see one of the clear, indisputable values of the humanities; their attentiveness to the human, and the clarifying or reflective power this might have had with greater embeddedness in policy and information design. In the second instance – and frequently both are accomplished in the same short chapter – this volume collects a series of interventions which set out specifically to create and sustain meaning, particularly when dominant cultural narratives about the pandemic rely on those meanings slipping away from political or popular memory. Thus, we have rich and detailed explorations of the experiences of museum workers, people told to ‘stay home’, older victims of gender-based violence, people with deafblindness and racialised nurses working in the NHS; as well as extensive reflection on what it was like to make the projects which formalised this knowledge work. Taken as a whole, this volume critiques and redefines pandemic epistemologies, assembling a partial blueprint for making future crises legible.

Anikó Imre

This chapter takes the ‘folk horror’ film Midsommar (2019) as a case study against which to analyse cultural manifestations of whiteness in terms of their global and historical interconnections and in relation to the worldwide resurgence of white supremacy. American director Ari Aster’s film adopts the folk horror sub-formula of clueless Anglo-American travellers descending on exotic foreign locations, only to be brutally punished for their exploitative attitude in a symbolic gesture of postcolonial justice. Instead of sending its protagonists to Asia or Africa, however, the film’s group of visitors, including two young anthropology scholars, arrive in the symbolic heart of European whiteness, Hälsingland, to participate in the Swedish folk-mythic rituals of Midsommar. The film’s aesthetic and representational dimensions offer plentiful commentary on whiteness as an inherently violent but also nostalgically mourned European concept that is operationalised through seemingly innocuous folk-cultural traditions. And the chapter focuses on an aspect of the film that has received only passing mention: that it was shot on location outside Budapest, where the entire ‘Swedish’ set was built. The production employed a Hungarian crew and Hungarian cast in non-starring roles, who impersonated the ‘Swedish’ folks of the ritual gathering. I examine the media service industry as a counterpart to and an indispensable layer of understanding how European whiteness has been produced and has circulated within interconnected cultural and industrial-economic forms.

in Off white
Open Access (free)
Challenges and opportunities
Qian Sun
,
Amy Corcoran
, and
Anna Jorgensen

This chapter discusses the challenges and perceived actionable opportunities offered by nature for health and wellbeing (nature-based health services) from the perspectives of the public, the local government and the third sector, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using Walsall, a medium-sized urban area in the West Midlands of England, as a case study, the chapter suggests that nature-based health services operate in complicated ecosystems of overlapping jurisdictions, multiple sectors, uncertain funding and competing interests. It concludes that if the potential affordances of urban nature are to be actualised, the following four conditions must be met: (1) the value of nature-based health services and the key role of the third sector in their delivery must be recognised in policy and in the knowledge and expertise of stakeholder organisations responsible for commissioning and delivery; (2) nature-based health services must be adequately resourced, with funding pathways tailored to the specific needs of the third sector; (3) the provision of the high-quality accessible urban green infrastructure, which is the foundation for nature-based health services, must be secured; and (4) improved mechanisms for stakeholder collaboration are required, to enable effective collaboration and ensure equity in access to resources, knowledge and expertise.

in Creative approaches to wellbeing
Open Access (free)
Bodily ideals of masculinity among far-right traditionalists in London
Amir Massoumian

The engagement of the far right in ecological arguments, particularly in reference to the urgent requirement of a systemic overhaul into authoritarianism, has a history as lengthy as ecological thought itself. The interest of this chapter is far-right ecological movements and how they intersect with ideas of masculinity and the body. The impetus of far-right populists to ‘take back control’ in this chapter intersects with loss of control over the human impact on the climate. This rhetoric involves far-right ideas which assert that the state has become ‘feminized’ and ‘hysterical’, and aims to remove traditional masculinity altogether. By taking the reader along an ethnographic journey through a series of interviews and interactions, the chapter exemplifies how issues of gender relate to far-right ecological concerns and the ways in which they manifest in practices relating to the body (a vegan diet, strenuous physical exercise including yoga, waking early to see the sun rise and, most importantly, abstinence from any form of ‘degenerate’ behaviour). Finally, the chapter highlights how conspiratorial thinking regarding climate change (in this case Jewish conspiracies of cultural Marxism) can embed itself within eco-fascistic thinking.

in Political ecologies of the far right
Open Access (free)
Russians as Turanians in nineteenth-century Polish thought
Maciej Górny

The East-Central European discovery of whiteness as a mark of Europeanness was often linked to darkening those further east. This chapter reconstructs a particular moment, in the wake of the anti-Russian January Uprising (1863–64), when an assertive Polish national movement began to adopt racialising discourses to distance themselves from the Orient. The contribution focuses on the work of the nineteenth-century anthropologist Franciszek Duchiński (1816–93), a Polish political emigre born in Ukraine, who lived in Turkey, France, and Switzerland. He authored a theory about the non-Slavonic racial origin of the Russians who, according to this amateur anthropologist, represented the ‘Yellow’ race. His work had a major impact on Polish public opinion: through the underground press we can trace how Poles othered Russians in a racial fashion in order to make claims to (white) European nationhood. The chapter also traces the ‘reverse’ transfer of knowledge travelling from the European periphery to the centre (Paris) – a topic rarely discussed by scholars. Duchiński’s ideas were influential on the famed practitioner of early physical anthropology, Jean-Louis Armand de Quatrefages de Breau (1810–92). In the following decade, Quatrefages was acclaimed for his publication La race prussienne, which maintained that the Prussians were of Turani (Mongol) origin. By way of Duchiński, this pamphlet became a landmark in the history of (distorted) science and for studies of European racism.

in Off white
Open Access (free)
Central and Eastern Europe and the global history of race

Central and Eastern Europe has long been seen in the West as an ‘off white’ European periphery. Yet its nationalist movements have worked towards a full belonging in a white Europe, or have claimed themselves to be superior defenders of the white West. This volume demonstrates the centrality of white supremacy for over two centuries in the region’s nation-building, social hierarchies, ethnic homogenisation, and global interconnections. Such insight applies not only to the newly established states of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century founded at the heights of global colonialism, but also to the region’s Communist polities, which publicly professed their rejection of such racial politics. More broadly, we analyse the role that white peripheries play in the maintenance of a global racial order – including the question of why the region inspires contemporary radical nationalism around the world. The collection comprises studies of national self-determination, geographic exploration, migration, and diplomacy; of cultural representation in literature, film, the media industries, exhibitions, art, dress, and music; of intellectual and academic discourses; as well as explorations of the many forms of banal nationalism, including everyday artefacts and language. The volume underlines the potential for resistance in the region too by theorising its marginality and identifying solidarities with racialised minorities and the Global South. Central and Eastern Europe has long been removed from global histories of race. This is an original alternative history that explores and challenges long-held claims about the region’s racial innocence.