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COVID-19 restrictions have confronted many people with new patterns of dependency and obligation in both their public and domestic lives. How, and to what effect, have they engaged with these? What are the implications of such material for anthropological theorisations of care and responsibility?
During the coronavirus pandemic, physical co-presence has become a possible vector of contagion and thus subject to restriction. Such restrictions have had far-reaching effects, disrupting care relations that extend beyond the household, whilst intensifying the pressure to care or be cared for by those with whom one shares a household.
Moreover, restrictions only work if adhered to collectively and are therefore subject to formal, social and internalised policing. Given the coronavirus's invisibility, however, such policing is necessarily mediated by (often contested) social imaginaries that mark certain people and actions as disproportionately 'irresponsible' or as people who 'don't care'. Meanwhile, whilst some citizens can care for each other simply by staying at home, others must provide public care via essential services, despite this potentially putting them and their loved ones at risk.
For many people, the pandemic has thus been characterised by: a) the emergence of novel dependencies and responsibilities; and b) heightened reflexivity regarding their multiple obligations, and the tensions between them.
Welcoming papers from diverse theoretical perspectives, this panel examines how, and to what effect, people have responded to these aspects of life under lockdown. How do they decide between competing responsibilities? How do they distinguish responsibility from sanctimony; care from control; duty from domination? What political and moral subjectivities are arising from their engagement with questions of care, responsibility and dependency? How is this shaping their social relations and wellbeing? And how can such ethnographies of the pandemic contribute to anthropological theorisations of care and responsibility?