InterAlia invites contributions for its forthcoming thematic issue 16/2021.


Flashbacks and flashforwards: epidemics and social change

Epidemics and pandemics have always been social and economic disruptions, often resulting in a reinvention of the communal and the economic, giving rise to new social forms. Epidemics work in contradictory ways, on the one hand – causing established social patterns to fade away, on the other – inspiring people to forge strong connections of solidarity and communal care. Outbreaks of infectious diseases also put the socio-economic organization of state and society to the radical test. It is in the times when new or recurring pathogens appear that the social lines of privilege and abandonment, or stigma and discrimination, are most vividly laid bare. Those who are deemed worthy by the system or who actually are worthy, economically speaking, receive as much care and as little supervision as the conditions allow, whereas social groups that do not sit comfortably with the normative narratives of nation-state (be it immigrants, gays, sex workers, trans* people, or people who use drugs), are cordoned off, violently monitored, or left out of the system. Andrew T. Price-Smith claims that “contagion also contains the seeds of catalytic socio-economic and political transformation” (2009, p. 2); and in their introduction to the book The anthropology of epidemics, Keck, Kelly and Lynteris (2019, p. 2) argue that “the inevitable and yet unpredictable emergence of new epidemics and pandemics” provokes us to pose a question about possible futures for humanity. Epidemics and pandemics that have roamed humankind so far, have been turning points in many different ways. For example, the Black Death is thought to have paved the way for capitalism, while the Western manifestation of the HIV/AIDS epidemic decimated a whole generation of queer people, tainting the gay identity experience. The COVID-19 pandemic has already shown the drawbacks of slimmed-down, underfinanced and understaffed, or privatised institutions of social care. Yet, by redefining the moral economy of life and death, each of these outbreaks of diseases changed the dominant ways of thinking about social relations and provoked individuals and collectivities to invent new forms of solidarities and care.

We see a few major areas on which we would like academics, activists and researchers to set their critical focus on the ways in which viruses affect communities:

  1. viral communities, that is, how the affected communities manage self-organising, mutual care and resistance; how the “invented” communal practices slip into the social mainstream, changing society in the longer run;
  2. viral inequalities, that is, how economic, political (e.g. access to rights and liberties), cultural and social (e.g. related to stigma and discrimination) inequalities affect communities and persons living with the virus; what social and political imaginaries of such concepts/notions as sexuality, gender, ethnicity, pleasure, justice etc. are created, sustained and reproduced in the context of these various viral inequalities;
  3. so-called people’s herstories, histories, or theirstories of public health and biomedicine, that is, minority groups’ takes on dominant conceptions, tools and imaginaries of public health and biomedical discourses;
  4. changes in social and intimate worlds of relationships in the times of, or due to, epidemics and pandemics;
  5. social and economic futures emerging out of epidemics and pandemics.


Please check out our guidelines for authors. Submission proposals should be made through the contact form.

The deadline for abstract submissions is October 31, 2020.



Dr Rafał Majka
Dr Justyna Struzik