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Accepted Paper:

‘The Romanian likes to be free’: Ethnographic intersections between technology, Covid-19 vaccines and political resistance among Romanians in London  
Ana-Maria Cirstea (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic research from the Covid-19 pandemic, this paper looks at how encounters with technology intersected with conspiracy narratives about the Covid-19 vaccine among Romanians in London. It then explores the uncomfortable political subjectivities informed by these intersections.

Paper long abstract:

As the Covid-19 pandemic advanced, governments used a hierarchy of technology to control the spread of the virus, with Covid-19 vaccines sitting at the top of this technological advancement and expertise. This paper looks at how encounters with technology bolstered conspiracy narratives about the Covid-19 vaccine among Romanians in London. Technologies of control were ubiquitous for my interlocutors during successive lockdowns, such as temperature screenings in supermarkets or contact-tracing QR codes. Many Romanians met these technologies with suspicion and tried to evade them. These experiences served as a springboard for hesitancy and scepticism, which developed into a range of conspiracy narratives and prophecies when the Covid-19 vaccine was announced in winter 2021. Conspiracy narratives spread in a gossip-like fashion among Romanians via social media and instant messaging apps. Operating within a transnational field between Romania and the UK, these narratives gave rise to uncomfortable political subjectivities where resistance to the vaccine became entwined with right-wing political values, nationalism, and religious fundamentalism. Vaccine resistance became a form of political resistance to the state – both British and Romanian – while remaining loyal to the Romanian nation and its perceived Orthodox roots. As they became disenchanted with the outcomes of their mobility, my interlocutors fervently embraced these ideological formations. Using technology as a way in, I illustrate how conspiracies around the Covid-19 vaccine led to a set of uncomfortable political subjectivities which will remain long beyond the pandemic.

Panel P18a
Technopolitics, biopolitics and algorithmic governance: Cultures of resistance and countercultures of disbelief during the SARS-CovII pandemic
  Session 1 Tuesday 7 June, 2022, -