Call for papers for the 1st “Historicising the pandemic” Conference, 12-13 June 2021

Keynote Speaker: TBA

Abstract Due Date: Wednesday 12 May 2021


This conference brings together academics, historians, linguists, medical practitioners, philosophers, ethicists, and humanists from a wide variety of fields, for a collaborative, multidisciplinary exploration of how the pandemic has been represented, depicted and understood.  Abstracts are peer-reviewed.  Themes and issues for the conference include, but are not limited to:


Stream A           Pandemic voices and narratives

The pandemic is a multiperspective narrative told by a diversity of observers and participants, including historians, scientists, journalists, artists, film-makers, politicians, social media influencers, anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists, to name a few. All these voices define and evaluate its characters, scenes, episodes and plot twists differently. How do we balance the scientific and the human dimensions of this event? How can we give its epistemological, anthropological, sociological, cultural and ethical  dimensions their due? What language should we use, what terms should we avoid? How far can statistics, data and documents tell the story? What frameworks, concepts and paradigms apply? How has it been constructed in popular discourse? How far have politicians co-opted the story for their own ideological purposes? How well has the media done, in conveying experiences, realities and priorities? How should the textbooks of 2030 define key events and represent major actors? What did we learn? When we eventually move away from this painful historical episode, what were our errors, and what stopped us correcting them? What about next time? How can we communicate these insights to government, relevant decision-makers, and the public?


Stream B          Pandemic issues and perspectives

The events of the pandemic have been intertwined with issues including the Black Lives Matter movement, anti-colonialism, the natural world in relationship to newly silenced cities, the port explosion and political disintegration of Lebanon, the election unrest in Belarus, the quasi-coup in Mali, and other events. A powerful global movement is underway, protesting police violence, criticising voracious capitalism, rejecting the demands of office work, and condemning rule-breaking and self-serving politicians. The pandemic has  shown us ourselves in new ways, in terms of mental health, the social position and pay of essential workers, negative responses to face-covering and social distancing, and differences between public health conformists and rule-breakers. The inability of governments to shape citizens behaviour has been exposed, both in cases where control measures were absolute, and where it was not. We welcome papers on these and related topics.


Stream C          Making the meaning of the pandemic

What should we say about what the 2020 pandemic means, shows, or illuminates? Fundamental historical concepts have been contested during the pandemic – causes and origins, actors and their effects, evidence and its interpretation, chronological development, mainstream and marginal voices and communities, complexity, contingency, continuity and change, nature and characteristics, scope and significance. How was meaning attributed in past epidemics, and how are we different? How much and what kind of difference does science make? How do these meanings vary between individuals and communities? How has the pandemic changed our understanding of daily life, in areas such as work, public health, contact, contagion, cure, solidarity, travel, and geopolitics? What are the problems with official narratives? What are the issues with alternative accounts? How do the processes of attributing meaning and drawing conclusions interact with cultures, religions, ethics and identities?  What should we communicate to future generations?


Stream D          Data analytics

In order to explore responses to the pandemic, we are soliciting research cooperation from academics and practitioners of all kinds. These papers use data from recorded structured interview questions, and evaluate this data with content analysis software. Conference participants interested in cooperating with this effort will publish papers in a journal special issue with HEDRA advisory board members.  If you are interested in this, please click here.


The conference welcomes abstracts from academics and researchers working in linguistics, history, philosophy, medicine, social sciences, business, and others. We also welcome experience narratives, case studies, and situation reports from members of the public, people working in any related field, and specialists. You can find more information on this here. Participants will be able to watch a plenary session, and participate in a live-stream roundtable, and a conference roundtable discussions.


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