Discussion – Key Debates, Viewpoints & Interviews

Covid politics – We Have to do Something About It! Agency and Pandemic Mikołaj Pawlak
Covid politics – The Unexpected Victory of the Nation State Agnieszka Bielewska
Covid politics – Pandemic, War Metaphors, and the Process of Civilisation Daniel Arenas
Covid politics – Crisis in the Time of Disaster (Coronavirus) Dr Veselin Mitrović
Covid politics – Morality and Solidarities in a State of Exception Teppo Eskelinen
Covid politics – Your Own Personal State of Emergency José Duarte Ribeiro
Covid politics – Beware of the Ministry of Purity Javier García-Martínez
Covid politics – Reflections on the COVID-19 Rupture: Towards Transformation Angela Martinez Dy
Covid politics – Calling Leaders’ Bluff: The Covid-19 Outbreak and Power Relations in European Societies Matteo Antonini
Covid politics – The Pandemic in Europe's Community of Destiny Stefania Adriana Bevilacqua
Covid politics – Being Tough (Enough?) – Navigating the Limits of Democratic Power in the Coronavirus Crisis Isabel Kusche
Covid Inequalities – Scenarios of Return (im)Mobility and Pandemic Izabela Grabowska
Covid Inequalities – The Butterfly and the Cocoon: The Chinese Community of Prato (Italy) during COVID-19 Laura Leonardi
Beliefs and knowledges – Between a Purifying and Polluting Spoon Milica Resanović
Beliefs and knowledges – The Sound of Silence: The Aestheticization of the Coronavirus in Service of the Production of Knowledge Dr Shirly Bar-Lev
Beliefs and knowledges – Coronavirus, Theodicy and Capitalism Bartholomew A. Konechni
Beliefs and knowledges – Toilet paper and pangolins: Magical thinking during the Covid-19 pandemics David Redmalm
Beliefs and knowledges – Socio-Ecological Mentalities and the Trilemmas of Covid and Climate Dennis Eversberg
Beliefs and knowledges – The Largest Possible Experiment: The Corona Pandemic as Nonknowledge Transfer Matthias Gross
Covid life-courses – Reflecting on Meta-Temporalities in the Study of Youth Futures Within the Covid 19 Pandemic Giuliana Mandich
Covid life-courses – Parents’ Home Office Challenges During the Corona Pandemic Lena Hipp
Covid life-courses – Robots Versus Human Care Workers in Elderly Care: Un-/empathic and Un-/Infected Marcus Persson
Covid life-courses – "My Life in Times of Coronaviruses": Changes in the Everyday Life of Children of Madrid Lourdes Gaitán
Covid life-courses – Alone Together: Biographical Crises in Times of Pandemic Ana Caetano
Life, health, death – Living in a Lockdown: An Opportunity to Enhance Physical Activities? Dr Mihaly Szerovay
Life, health, death – The "Bare Death": Biopolitics and Religiopolitics of Jewish Covid-19 Victims Noa Vana
Life, health, death – Pandemics, Social Sciences and Inequality of Time Cláudio Pinheiro
Life, health, death – The Display of Displaced Care: Funerals in Corona Times Erika Anne Hayfield
Reflections – (Inter)acting in a Different Timeframe Aurianne Stroude
Reflections – Relational Corona Dr. Markus Lange
Reflections – Everything has Changed and Nothing has Changed Hannah Bradby
Reflections – Pandemic Possibilities in Sweden – From a Room with a View Gabriella Wulff
Mediating Covid – Following the #. Italians and ‘Biographical Continuity’ Under Covid-19 Veronica Moretti
Mediating Covid – The Evolution of Fake News in the Context of Coronavirus: First Explorative Insights into the Emergence and Spread of Fake News in Austria Daniela Wetzelhütter
Mediating Covid – Epidemic, Pandemic, Infodemic: A Project in Three Acts Marc Hannappel
Covid Working – Becoming Irrelevant for the System: A Discussion of Terms Elke Hemminger
Covid Working – The Corona Crisis and the Systemic Relevance of Jobs in Germany: Towards a New Appreciation and Solidarity? Paul-Fiete Kramer
Covid Arts – Arts in Finland Sari Karttunen
Covid Arts – The Impact of the Pandemic on Artists: Case Study in Malta Dr Valerie Visanich
Covid Arts – Resisting Pandemics: Balconies, Musicians and Contemporary Lockdowns in Contemporary Spain Kerman Calvo
Covid Arts – The Show Must Go On(line) - Music in Quarantine Alenka Barber-Kersovan
Covid Arts – The State and the Arts in Sweden During the Initial Phase of the Covid-19 Crisis – Less Visible Losses in the Shadow of Lost Lives and Livelihoods Christopher Mathieu
Covid Arts – The Arts in the Time of Pandemic Dr. Olga Kolokytha
Mediating Covid - Covid-19 as a Global Risk and Global Chance Svetlana Hristova

Covid politics – The Unexpected Victory of the Nation State

Issue 46: Pandemic (Im)Possibilities vol. 2 Sat 1 May 2021 0

Agnieszka Bielewska, (im)Mobility Research Center, SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Poland,
Agnieszka Trąbka, Jagiellonian University; SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Poland

The first case of Coronavirus was confirmed in Poland on 4th March 2020. However, it is estimated that the epidemic started in mid-January. The Government’s first reaction was to close schools, kindergartens and nurseries (12th March); the second was to close borders to all foreigners, with the exception of groups like spouses of Polish nationals. Poles returning from abroad had to undergo 14 days’ quarantine. Within days, similar measures were implemented by other EU countries. In the face of plague, the unity of the European Union started to crumble, and nation states reappeared as the main actors. These units, often perceived as victims of globalisation, whose power has been eclipsed by that of transnational corporations, re-emerged as significant forces, able to take control over their territories. They have closed shopping malls, forced factories to stop production and confined people to their homes, diverting their activities into virtual space.

As a result, the so-called transnational global class [1][2][3] has been grounded. The transnational professionals and “middling migrants”, who have built their life trusting the notions of a united world and a united Europe, have been forced to answer the question of their belonging, and have suddenly found they can choose only one country. The pandemic has illustrated the fragility of the foundations on which these notions of borderless Europe were built. The lightness of the decision to live somewhere was suddenly taken away, together with the conviction that other destinations were just one short, cheap flight away. The world of time-space compression has ceased to exist, at least temporarily. Those who used to see themselves as nomadic, as citizens of the world belonging everywhere and nowhere in particular, all of a sudden have had their home defined for them. Moreover, it was a rather essentialised definition of home based on a passport and not necessarily in accord with how people actually feel. As Olena Babakova aptly put it: “Home is where they let you in during a pandemic”.

This does not mean, however, that forced immobility hits only transnational cosmopolitans. On the contrary, its harsh consequences may be observed at a local level as well, in particular in the border regions. There are towns divided by borders, such as Polish Słubice and German Frankfurt an der Oder, that started healing their wounds thanks to European Union unity. Only after Poland joined the EU in 2004 were the Polish and German populations able to look for opportunities on the other side of the border. People could live in Słubice and work in Frankfurt, and their children could be sent to German schools. There are also those who live in transnational relationships.  EU internal mobility was taken for granted and the new reality may have come as a shock. From the end of March till the beginning of May, cross-border activities came to a halt. For those working or studying abroad, entering Poland meant a 14-day quarantine. Cross-border workers therefore faced the dilemma of continuing to work and renting accommodation on the German side, or staying at home and endangering their jobs. Some German schools offered accommodation to their Polish students for the secondary school final exams period. The reintroduction of a “hard border” in the of case doctors and nurses, who constitute a significant proportion of healthcare professionals in a number of bordering cities, poses a problem to German employers as well. Finally, on 30th April, after a week of protests against the quarantine of people who work and study on the other side of border, the Polish prime minister eased restrictions.

It is interesting that the first response to danger was closing the borders between EU member states. Free movement of people, one of the pillars of a globalized world, started to be perceived as risky and in many cases unnecessary. The lack of ontological security also influenced people’s attitudes toward space. Places traditionally defined as static and closed now became perceived as safe. Mobility, previously seen as an asset or privilege, became a burden, whereas those who led a more local life often found it easier to adapt safely to the newly imposed conditions. Suddenly in the time of pandemic, there is no place for Massey’s understanding of places as sites connected to others in constantly evolving social, cultural, and natural/environmental networks [4] [5]. The space of flows has been limited to the virtual space of online meeting rooms. Physical places have returned to their traditional meaning as a dot in space with clearly defined borders, and at the same time rather essentialised and exclusive rights to be in those places have been enforced [7]. States are opening their borders only to their citizens. Even though Covid-19 is present in all European states, only citizens are allowed to cross national borders, and even they need to go through quarantine. This way, places understood here as states imply the construction of ‘us’ (people who belong in a place) and ‘them’ (people who do not) [5].

The interesting question is what happens after the pandemic. It may not be easy for nation states to give back the power they regained in a time of fear. It may not be easy for people to restore their faith in a united world, and in an ability to lead transnational lives undisrupted by visible and invisible borders. Once forced to choose their life centre, will they be able to recapture their ties with other locations? No matter how these questions are answered, it seems that nation states are seen as homes that need to be closed against strangers in a time of threat, and the connection between traditional notions of community and locality on the one hand, and identity on the other, are still strong in spite of what many predicted at the end of 20th century [8][9][10].


[1] Carroll, W. K. (2013). The making of a transnational capitalist class: Corporate power in the 21st century. Zed Books Ltd.
[2] Castells, M. (2011). The rise of the network society. Wiley-Blackwell.
[3] Sassen, S. (1996). ‘Whose City Is It? Globalization and the Formation of New Claims’. Public Culture, 8: 205-223.
[4] Massey, D. (1994). Space, place and gender. Polity Press.
5] Cresswell, T. (2004). Place: a short introduction. Blackwell.
[6] Tuan Y.-F. (1977). Space and Place: The perspective of Experience. University of Minnesota Press.
[7] Escobar, A. (2001). ‘Cultural Site in Places: Reflections on Globalism and Subaltern Strategies of Localization’. Political Geography 20(2): 139-74.
[8] Relph, E. (1976). Place and Placelessness. Pion.
[9] Marcus, G. (1992). ‘Past, present and emergent identities’, in: Lash, F. (ed.) Modernity and Identity, 309-330. Blackwell.
[10] Augé, M. (1995). Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. Verso

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