10. März 2022
- 11. März 2022
When COVID-19 spread across the world in the first couple of months of 2020, the scale and effects of the pandemic were unknown. However, traditional science communication and science institutions soon found ways to represent, and means to communicate, the unfolding pandemic, such as dashboards, growth charts, and visualizations of the virus. At the same time, established cultural narratives and stereotypes emerged in the media discourse: scientists went viral as caped crusaders and saints, literature classics such as Albert Camus’s The Plague (1947) and Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron (1349–1353) were read and cited, medical historians began to explore past responses to pandemics, and Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 movie Contagion saw a massive increase in streaming sales as early as January 2020.
The real-world event and its possible premediations in various past narratives (or past reflections on and responses to epidemics and pandemics) seemed to be uncannily entangled with the unfolding real-world event. Indeed, on January 8, 2020, Netflix launched a documentary series titled Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak, which announced that “it’s a guarantee that another version of that killer flu [i.e., the Spanish flu] will reappear. We don’t know when. But we should always presume that it will be soon.” Anindita Banerjee and Sherryl Vint thus note in their introduction to a symposium on pandemics in a recent issue of Science Fiction Studies: “The specter of its emergence was as robustly rehearsed in war-game pandemic simulations that have become staples of policy and governance as it was in killer viruses and zombie contagions that have returned with a vengeance to entertain viewers and gamers.” Indeed, science journalists and science communicators compulsively returned to eerily prescient narratives and visualizations in an attempt to contain the unknown situation within known frameworks, to mould into shape the viral hyperobject.
This workshop is the first step in a publication project that explores the complex and mutually constitutive relationship between (re)configurations of the pandemic in (popular) culture, public discourse, and science (communication) in order to trace the different ways of “telling stories” about epidemics and pandemics, with a particular focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since this workshop is part of a publication projects, its goal is to discuss contributions-in-progress. Contributions will thus be circulated ahead of the workshop; at the workshop, the contributions will be summarized briefly and discussed. If you’d like to get access to the contributions and participate in the discussions, please contact Michael Fuchs at firstname.lastname@example.org.