As COVID-19 spreads across the globe and poses multiple crises to nations and humanity, our previous assumptions of community, mobility, personhood, and even society itself are called into question. Widespread border closure and travel disruptions have rendered conventional forms of sociality difficult. Lockdown, social distancing and work-from-home orders have affected different social groups in vastly different ways, with clear adverse impact on women, racial minorities, and the working poor. Pandemic narratives proliferate on social media and news networks. Individuals in different world regions articulate different if not conflictual meanings of self, community, justice, and the nation in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Political elites in some nations propagate narratives of virus nationalism and populism and violently exclude and stigmatize certain social groups.

In a world troubled by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative for researchers to rework our theoretical assumptions and frameworks as we embark on new empirical and theoretical inquiries. The Center on Digital Culture and Society at the University of Pennsylvania seeks to bring together a group of scholars for an interdisciplinary workshop to examine these important issues and explore new research agendas. We particularly welcome empirical research which takes historical, critical, cultural, and political-economic approaches to the study of the following topics:

-New and radical practices and visions of technologies in the COVID-19 pandemic
-Changing narratives of borders, communities, and mobility
-The resurgence of racism and right-wing nationalism
-Gender and the crisis of social reproduction
-Evolving patterns of media/tech activism and surveillance, and their implications for future social   movements
-Narratives of identity, solidarity, emotions, personhood, social justice, and nationalism
-Artificial intelligence, automation, and other technologies in economic, political and social processes
-Comparative studies of risks, vulnerabilities, and pandemic narratives across time and space

Please submit extended paper abstracts of 500-800 words in English to cdcs@asc.upenn.edu before September 1, 2020 with “COVID Workshop” in the subject line. The authors of accepted proposals will be invited to present the full paper at a workshop on March 19, 2021 hosted by the Center on Digital Culture and Society. Depending on the pandemic situation, the workshop may be virtual or in-person. If in-person, the workshop will be held at the University of Pennsylvania and organizers will cover the invited authors’ travel and accommodation. If the workshop is held virtually, organizers will pay an honorarium to invited speakers. Presented papers will be published in a special journal issue and/or as an edited book. The workshop will be co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Contemporary China at the University of Pennsylvania.