An ongoing malaise? socio-legal impacts of the pandemic

16 Eka -tik 17 Eka -ra

Coordinators: David Whyte (University of Liverpool, UK), Ignasi Bernat (University of Winchester, UK)

Description of the meeting

Governmental responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have generated numerous legal, constitutional, political and economic debates. Those debates have shaped discussion on the role of the state of emergency and executive orders, individual civil liberties, economic recovery, the (lack) of preparation to deal with the pandemic, and the epidemiological impact of reopening the economy, colleges and schools. From the very beginning of this COVID-19 pandemic different authors have attempted to provide a unifying answer to the multiple questions emerging from it. Georgio Agamben, for example, initially tried to explain how the governmental response to the situation represented a hyperbolic form of the state of exception in which new forms of surveillance were being normalized by the health crisis, whilst others, such as Mike Davis have noted that the pandemic represents a more repressive form of global re-ordering. At the same time, others, such as Judith Butler have argued more hopefully that this presents a potentially emancipatory moment in an era of institutional violence.

It is clear from our experience of the pandemic that there are some lessons that academics need to quickly learn about a) the role of law in responding to this crisis (and therefore future crises); and b) the changing forms of law and regulation that are likely to emerge in the aftermath. In order to scrutinize these shifts and transformations, this workshop will discuss the new contributions from leading international scholars that engage in socio-legal studies coming from ten different countries, and three different continents location in both Global South or Global North countries.

This workshop will bring together new papers in three areas. First, the workshop will include papers discussing public health and laws implemented by Global South and North Countries to handle or manage the COVID-19 pandemic, and the social, constitutional and political economic consequences of such policies and laws. Second, the workshop will include papers on the role of law and regulation in preventing future epidemics. Third, the workshop will include papers analyzing the repercussions that can come from the pandemic arrangements that are, by and large, most commonly found on the peripheries. These peripheries refer not only to who become the subjects of change, but also to how they become so.

Those themes will be united in the workshop by asking the broad, over-arching question: what does the pandemic tell us about how we analyse the role of law in social, cultural and economic formations? Papers responding to those themes cover the following topics: the changing role of health and environmental regulation; new forms of public policing; new forms of bio power; new forms of border control; the pandemic and social reproduction; the relationship between the emergence of pandemics and the regulation of markets; the changing role of law and regulation in preventing future epidemics; and the role of law in guaranteeing economic outcomes.

All of the named participants have been core members of research teams or other seminars that Bernat and Whyte have organised previously. Seven of the names participants were members of the Law and Society Association International Research Collaborative (IRC) that was chaired by one of the applicants (Whyte; ‘State of Exception, Law and Economy’).

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