ICS Seminar Series - Thinking in common, thinking COVID-19

Date: Thursday, 16 April 2020
Time: 11.30am–1pm
Venue: This seminar will take place ONLINE via Zoom. Please join via the following link: https://uws.zoom.us/j/97771845426

Thinking in common, thinking COVID-19

This is the second week in which the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney is focusing on discussions of the social and cultural effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the spirit of thinking in common attempts to situate the virus, to subordinate it to analytical grids and curves, to discern what COVID-19 is ‘trying to tell us’ and in the spirit of thinking in common, the ICS discussion this week invites us to collectively deliberate on the ideas presented in three chosen readings, all of which mobilise a range of provocative arguments addressing the logic of social responses to other pandemics in history; questions of control and their very real devastations of already-vulnerable lives and livelihoods, and how governments are beginning to act in ways that contradict the neoliberal crisis management strategies arresting the ensuing global financial crisis.

Please join us on Zoom at 11.30am on April 16 to continue this conversation. After opening statements from the Chair, participants will be distributed into smaller break out groups for roughly 30 minutes to discuss (one or all of) these selected readings. Members of the Seminar Committee will act as small group discussion facilitators. We will reconvene into a plenary discussion for the last 25 minutes to consider how the emergence and impacts of the coronavirus intersect other pressing crises that currently wrack our delicate and diverse worlds.


1. New Pathogen, Old Politics (40 min read)

Alex de Waal


We should be wary of simplistic uses of history, but we can learn from the logic of social responses.

Alex de Waal is Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. He is the author of Mass Starvation: The History and Future of FamineThe Real Politics of the Horn of Africa: Money, War and the Business of Power, and editor of Advocacy in Conflict: Critical Perspectives on Transnational Activism.

2. Modernity Without its Clothes: the pandemic crisis shines a light on futilities of control (12 min read) 7 April, 2020

Andy Stirling


After all, the main significance of this pandemic lies not in lofty platforms for pre-entitled, indulgently-curated identities. The issues are instead about many very real further devastations of already-vulnerable lives and livelihoods, of those without the same chances to air their views.

Andy Stirling trained in astrophysics, archaeology and anthropology, later working for Greenpeace International before research in technology policy. He focuses especially on questions over uncertainty, participation, diversity and sustainability in the governance of science and innovation.

3. Pandemic Insolvency: Why This Economic Crisis will be Different (16 min read) 30 March, 2020

Bue Rübner Hansen


Many states — now including the UK and US — are beginning to act in ways that contradict not just the neoliberal script, but the crisis management strategies of the global financial crisis.

Bue Rübner Hansen is a Europe-based researcher, writer, editor writing about whatever extends democracy.