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.”
I’ve provisionally thought through February and March chez Shenzhen, writing the essay, ‘Covid among Us: Viral Mobilities in Shenzhen’s Moral Geography,’ which has been published online at Made in China. I’ve converted a pdf version of the essay for easy download, below:
This is a serious question. During times of mass corona-testing, dental services have been closed and dentists and their assistants redeployed to people test stations. But this information hasn’t been made public. Instead, you only discover that dental services have been suspended if you need your teeth checked, can’t get an appointment, and then someone explains the situation to you. Otherwise, there’s just a black hole where the dentist used to be.
Both in China and abroad, much ink and digital text has been dedicated to extreme cases of people being unable to get emergency medical care. However, the redeployment of dental workers illustrates how regular healthcare has been (indefinitely? until further notice?) suspended in order to mobilize workers to meet the need for personal to give tests. Annual check-ups can’t be booked, for example, if your dentist is busy swabbing throats instead of filling cavities. This situation illustrates one of the challenges to navigating Shenzhen’s current management of the omicron outbreak–there have been no comprehensive announcements of how city resources have been re-deployed to achieve zero-Covid. This means that you find out what’s been closed or redeployed through unexpected encounters with a new normal that has not been formally acknowledged.