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Publication Detail
Quarantined, Sequestered, Closed: Theorising Academic Bodies Under Covid-19 Lockdown
Abstract
Abstract The term ‘quarantine’ is derived from the Italian quarantena, from quaranta, referring to the forty days of isolation traditionally imposed during the era of the Black Death in Europe. This paper examines this and related contemporary terms, in order to consider the complex and contradictory nature of enforced sites of isolation, with reference to the historical literature. The centrality of spatial practices in the current pandemic is emphasised, with a focus on the normally unobserved, micro practices of individuals under ‘lockdown’. The paper reports on an interview study conducted at a large UK Higher Education institution during the Covid-19 ‘lockdown’, and analyses the accounts of six academics, focusing particularly on their embodied and sociomaterial practices, with reference to the etymological analysis. The paper considers the extent to which their reported experiences reflect the various meanings of the term sequestrato, going on to propose that their working practices, particularly focused on screens and video calls, are characterised by a need to ‘perform the university’. I speculate on how the ontological nature of the university itself has been fundamentally altered by the closure of the campus and lockdown, proposing that the site of the university is now radically dispersed across these sequestered bodies. I conclude by calling into the question the accuracy of the term ‘online teaching and learning’, instead suggesting that in a fundamental sense, none of these practices is in fact ‘online’ or digital.
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