Looking at tests in a lab

This call builds on the successful series of workshops (“Covid and Adaptation”) organised by Andrew Watts and Nigel Harris at the University of Birmingham in 2022-23. We now intend to carry this initiative forward by arranging for the publication of article-length pieces by a variety of contributors – ideally in a special issue of the journal Adaptation, and in a free-standing edited book. To this end we are inviting would-be contributors to attend an online seminar and deliver short, 5 to 10-minute presentations which could in time be published in one or other of these contexts.

Over a two-year period of lockdowns and multiple restrictions on public and private life, Covid-19 reshaped profoundly the world around us and how we interact with it. The spread of the virus tested our capacity to adapt to new and rapidly evolving circumstances in ways that were both harmful and sometimes unexpectedly beneficial. Work and education moved online. Physical spaces were repurposed. Most obviously, Covid-19 forced us to rethink how we engage with others as social, professional, and personal relationships became confined largely to the digital sphere. However, the extent to which we adapted – or failed to adapt – to the challenges of the pandemic reflects only one aspect of our experience of Covid-19.

We invite participants to consider how cultural practices – such as performance art and access to museum collections – evolved during this period, and what the benefits and consequences of new modes of cultural engagement have been in areas such as mental health and social justice. In tandem with this focus on cultural responses to Covid-19, the workshop welcomes explorations of the ways in which the pandemic itself was represented across a variety of media including music, photography, painting, poetry, and street art. Through this discussion, participants will examine how society confronted the experience of Covid-19 at the time of the initial outbreak – and how we might reflect on this trauma two years on.

Potential topics for discussion include, but are not restricted to:

  • Covid and artistic adaptation (film, television, radio, and other media);
  • Spatial / physical adaptation during the pandemic;
  • Covid and mental health / wellbeing;
  • Changes in educational practice (modes of teaching and learning);
  • Digital means of responding to / representing Covid-19;
  • New / emerging artistic practices in response to Covid-19;
  • Temporary versus longstanding cultural change;
  • Covid-19 and cultural accessibility;
  • Relationships between social, cultural, economic, and political adaptation linked to Covid-19;
  • The implications of Covid-19 for faith and faith groups;
  • Cultural and other forms of (in)equality during and since the pandemic (including considerations of gender, sexuality, race, and socio-economic class);
  • Cultural representations of the pandemic then and now;
  • Strategies of memorialisation and forgetting: forms of collective amnesia, the “new normal”, and the political denial of ongoing virus risk in 2023 and beyond.

Proposals for 5 to 10-minute presentations are invited from academic colleagues, medical and psy sciences professionals, cultural practitioners, and those with a wider interest in the issues raised by this topic. We warmly welcome proposals from non-academic participants and will be happy to offer writing and editing assistance to those from outside academia in preparing selected contributions for publication.

Proposals of 250 words (maximum) should be sent to Dr Andrew Watts (a.j.watts.2@bham.ac.uk) by 15th November 2023. The workshop will take place online during the afternoon of Wednesday 13th December (exact timings to be confirmed once the schedule is finalised).

Colleagues who are unable to attend the online workshop are welcome to submit a 250-word abstract, which we will consider as a proposal for publication as a full-length article after the event has taken place.