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Special Collection: COVID, Capitalism, and Culture


Andrew Apter, UCLA Departments of History and Anthropology; International Institute

This collection explores the global pandemic in relation to the historical frameworks of capitalism and culture in which it is embedded. In many respects COVID-19 is symptomatic of the “viral capitalism” which spawned it genesis and transmission by following the very commodity flows and value chains of global goods and services. In other ways it curtails sales and productivity through layoffs and closures that wreak havoc on certain economic sectors—hurting, for example, retail, hospitality, transportation and the performing arts while benefitting others such as IT, media conglomerates and streaming behemoths. The sociodemographic correlates of COVID’s impact on migrant labor, employment, healthcare, housing and education highlight similar contradictions in the social relations of production and exchange; whether putting essential workers of color on the front lines of risk and contagion, scapegoating ethnic “others” and immigrants, or further polarizing class inequalities between rich and poor. COVID attacks the body politic by afflicting and exposing its structural vulnerabilities.

The essays in this collection explore the cultural dimensions of COVID’s relationship to capitalism. We invite submissions that may examine such topics as transspecies solidarities between families and dogs as the “canine commons” emerges in suburban neighborhoods under COVID; temporalities of pandemic crises as COVID evokes earlier viral invasions; variable responses to sustained immobility under politically imposed conditions of “stay-at-home” orders; phenomenologies of walking in the city while masking; racialized idioms of social contagion; “co-infective” forms of social media and online delivery; or new rituals of purification and reciprocal exchange as sacrifice and gift-giving emerge in the interstices of precarious social and economic infrastructures.

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