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Cultural politics of crisis in a time of pandemic and climate change

We are currently experiencing what many would call, “crisis-time.” The most recent and urgently unfolding crisis began in December 2019 with the advent of COVID-19 and the subsequent declaration of global pandemic in early 2020. Experts tell us we are yet in the midst of this crisis.

MAIS 752 - Cultural Politics of Crisis in a Time of Pandemic and Climate Change

Arguably, however, a second, slower-moving crisis—that of climate change—has been pressing upon societies with the urgency of wildfires, heat waves, drought, and floods for several decades. Intertwined with these crises are the current structures of privilege and oppression built on centuries of systemic and often viral racism. Indeed, 2020 is becoming known in popular culture feeds as the “year of the breath” to signal the uncanny concatenation of:

1) COVID’s respiratory impacts, especially upon our elders and the vulnerable;
2) choking climate change-fueled wildfires (in Australia, the Amazon, and the Pacific Northwest of the US);
3) the horrific withholding of life-giving air from George Floyd by the police. Amidst these interconnected concerns, we will collectively grapple with how to move through these crises with the insights of thought, feeling, and experience, drawing selectively from the fields of cultural studies and affect theory.

This course invites participants to situate themselves in this moment, individually and collectively. A cultural studies perspective suggests: this moment, the “conjunctural now,” carries histories that must be reckoned with and, as such, critique of the status quo is necessary, but also with a view for transformative futures. Arundhati Roy has insisted that we see the “pandemic as a portal,” presenting us with an opportunity to see how these moments offer a potential break from the way things are, as we collectively imagine worlds otherwise.

We will collectively engage with the following questions:

  • To what degree are you/we experiencing these “crises”?
  • What is gained and what is lost by naming these crises?
  • To what degree is each of these crises novel, and to what degree has each been experienced before (think of aspects of each that have been experienced before by other communities/societies)?
  • What might be gained by thinking of multiple crises simultaneously?
  • What intergenerational stories exist that give individuals and communities traction for thinking of human- and societal-level responses?
  • How do stories and metaphors offer ways of narrating through both the sensational urgency and the mundane lived experiences of “crisis time”?
  • What is the value/role of humour in such serious times?
  • How can we collectively “monger care” at a time when fear and divisions are ever-apparent?

This MAIS 752 offering will apply towards the MAIS program focus areas of Cultural Studies, Global Change, Equity Studies, Canada, the North, and the Globe or as an Elective. Contact the MAIS office for further assistance

The winter session for this course begins on January 6th, 2021. Online registrations open October 14th for Program Students and November 1st for Non-Program Students. The winter grouped study course registration deadline for all students is December 1st or when the course becomes full.

To learn more about the MAIS (Master of Arts – Interdisciplinary Studies) program and all of the course offerings, please visit the MAIS website.

  • November 25, 2020
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