2021 Special Focus—Life after Pandemic: Towards a New Global Biopolitics?

COVID-19 has massively destabilized our individual and collective lives both on global and national levels. The pandemic has at the same time been a symptom of globalization – global flows of people being the cause of the fast spread of coronavirus – and a major blow to it. Unprecedented travel bans and a massive disruption of global supply chains and international trade have meant an implosion of economic globalization. Political linkages have suffered too as countries turned inwards while nationalist narratives and protectionist agendas thrived on the back of the crisis. Within societies, the pandemic has had variable impacts. In some places, a shift in values has occurred with precedence given to social well-being over economic growth, higher levels of solidarity in spite of social distancing measures, and a swing of power from the private to the public sector. Elsewhere, the virus has reinforced the structures of injustice and oppression. The elevated sense of insecurity and uncertainty also provided a vast opportunity for enemies of democracy and individual liberties. Surveillance state has been entrenched with autocrats rallying the masses around the flag and exploiting the crisis to tighten their grip on power. Conspiracy theories have lurked beneath all this: in a world saturated with fake news, the pandemic has spawned even more disinformation.

The Fourteenth Global Studies Conference will look back at that extraordinary time to map, in a holistic and multidimensional way, the impact of the pandemic on the processes of globalization. Has the virus sunk globalization as we know it or will it promptly recover from its deep freeze? Will new patterns of global connectivity and biopolitics emerge and if so, will they be fairer, better balanced and more sustainable? Or will the pandemic lead to a more divided and tribal world? While considering the terrible legacy that COVID-19 has left, we will take a glimpse into the future to ponder how to avoid dystopian scenarios and what lessons humankind needs to learn to ensure that it recovers from this adversity and is better prepared to withstand future threats.

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