Reactions to make sense of the virus

Mirko Pasquini has previously been doing research in northern Italy. Together with Claudia Merli, he arranged a web seminar about the sociocultural dimensions of the Covid-19 outbreak, focusing specifically on this highly affected part of Europe.

Mirko Pasquini is a PhD candidate at the Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology. He has done fieldwork within an emergency ward in the Emilia Romagna region, northern Italy. His research is centered around people seeking emergency care while being described by medical staff as "improper users", as they are not in life-threatening situations. Mirko focuses on how these individuals seek emergency care because they cannot endure the long waiting times of general clinics, or simply because they don't have access to any other type of care. But as they do this, they change the whole system.

- Because the healthcare system has to adapt to the changing demand, Mirko says.

Emilia Romagna also happens to be one of the hardest hit regions when it comes to the new coronavirus.

Mirko joined associate professor Claudia Merli to hold a web seminar on the 18th of March, titled “The Crown: Nations and Bodies in COVID-19 times”. They analyzed how emotions, fears and symbols produced in the pandemic are now also changing healthcare systems and societies, at national and supranational levels. They highlighted not only the context of underfunded and fragmented public healthcare systems, but also various reactions to the current situation, which contain everything from blaming to humor, demonstrating how people try to make sense of the situation.

These are reactions both to the virus itself as well as to the resulting measures taken by different governments and other institutional actors.

- I don't really think you can separate those two things in this context, says Mirko.

Their aim is to draw special attention to the sociocultural contexts in which the Covid-19 pandemic plays out, with a special focus on northern Italy and how it all affects behavior.

What they are after is preliminary answers to complex conundrums: such as how people make sense of their current condition? How do local, regional, national and international power intermingle in citizens’ lives? Which form of sovereign power rules over them?
Mixing sacred iconography and dancing and singing bodies in response to the pandemic, Mirko and Claudia explored different epistemologies to make sense of the “virus wearing the crown”.

Text: Alexander Öbom

Mirko Pasquini and his field site
Mirko Pasquini and a photo from of his field site in northern Italy. © 2020 Mirko Pasquini All rights reserved.