It turns out that Covid-19 is good to think if your goal is to understand ‘China’ as imagined, perceived and, of course, enforced. (Winning?) After all, even if there are no countries outside are heads, nevertheless, there are test stations, checkpoints, police, and all sorts of social monitoring. Moreover, how different groups–both at home and abroad–are responding to the lockdown shows up interesting aspects of my experience in Shenzhen. So, I’m providing a round-up of some of the Covid related blogs, essays and books that I’ve been reading to embed Shenzhen’s experience into national and international discourses about biological governance, moral geography and new forms of self expression. And yes, they’re all over the place because we don’t really know how the ground has shifted. Moreover, I find comparison and contrast both necessary and useful because the intellectual and political challenge is to provide rich, on the ground accounts of lived experience within and against political-economic systems that are (to use a harsh neologism) always already glocal–the suffering caused by Covid-19 is universal, but responses to and cultural expressions of pain have been highly specific.
The cartoon caption which comes via the 2022 Shanghai lockdown reads, “Who dares call a meal with pig feet and bear’s claw anything less than a feast? You can’t hide that we’re living in a flourishing age.”
In Covid-19 in China: From Chernobyl Moment to Impetus for Nationalism, Chenchen Zhang tracks the shift from fear to nationalism in China during the 2020 pandemic.
Infectious Change: Reinventing Chinese Public Health after an Epidemic by Kate Mason shows how Shenzhen came to model a new form of technocratic public health in the aftermath of the SARS epidemic.
Lockdown Sound Diaries, an essay by Jing Wang over at Made In China looks at how mechanized sound has been made, used and deployed both to enforce the lockdown and how intimate sounds and laughter have been used to bring comfort.
The India-China Institute at the New School hosts Pandemic Discourses, which aims to make salient the diversity of Covid experiences, highlighting voices from the Global South.
The Pandemic Journaling Project proactively supports ordinary people in documenting daily life during the pandemic.
In The Wuhan Lockdown, which came out in 2022, Guobin Yang contextualizes the stories of ordinary people who fought (and the martial rhetoric is a critical part of the story) to overcome the pandemic in order to preserve life. Indeed, these stories make clear that a belief in and commitment to life significantly informed China’s success in limiting deaths beyond Wuhan’s borders.
Viral Loads: Anthropologies of Urgency in the Time of Covid-19 tracks how the virus exacerbated extant inequalities worldwide.