This cluster on COVID-19 denialism investigates, analyses, and showcases the diverse ways in which the denial of various dimensions of the pandemic makes visible inequalities, social conflicts, underlying ideologies, and inherently political processes. The contributions illuminate how different iterations of Covid denialism figure into the domains of representation, infrastructure, disinformation networks, democratic deficits, political conflicts, racism, and social solidarity.
Visualizing Covid denialism allows us to approach the stark divergence of popular narratives of the pandemic from an alternative vantage point, prompting us to consider the different ways in which collective denialism in response to a new global pandemic may take shape, and what the practice of denialism means for the people and groups involved, as well as those attempting to advance alternate narratives and ways of being during the crisis.
This cluster is a space for reflection on the overwhelming contradictions and forms of cognitive dissonance that have given rise to social and political conflict during the pandemic as citizens, societies, states, and scientific communities have been forced to navigate competing streams of knowledge production and political action. This is a situation that has exposed stark material and discursive inequalities, revealing the ways in which certain groups are marginalised and possess little power to have their concerns heard and addressed. Denial ranges beyond the individual to even that of the state, where a secular, ‘rational’, ‘evidence-based’, ‘progressive’ state such as Sweden engages in science denial by embracing forms of anti-science stances – such as the denial of the efficacy of masks and lockdowns – that are normalized through official public communication channels. This contrasts with the more common manifestations of denialism as supposedly anti-establishment and far right, while nevertheless being aligned with and/or co-opted by corporate interests.
Denial has both racialized and class-based effects. To deny the severity of the pandemic does not match the on-the-ground social realities of everyday citizens and workers more exposed to the virus, and often being required to work without proper protection or furloughed without pay during lockdowns. This includes people in risk groups, or living with risk groups, and teachers sent to teach in class without vaccines, face masks, or even systematic testing. This cluster seeks to shed light on, and provide a space of reflection about the different ways these lived realities are denied and the inequalities that these shades of denialism reveal. We invite potential collaborators to get in touch with us about articles they have written on various forms of denial during the COVID-19 pandemic in different contexts, from Trump’s United States and Bolsonaro’s Brazil in the Americas, to various countries in Europe, Africa, South Asia and wider Asia, as well as the Pacific. Having a wide geographic scope may further illuminate common struggles in a world divided and isolated by the pandemic.