The TQE is a monthly newsletter that publishes a mixture of short commentaries, cultural/critical theories, and curated articles. We hope to contribute to interdisciplinary networks of social thinkers and practitioners by creating a forum for intellectual exchange.
Read on to see what we are thinking about this month.
Social Imaginary in the Age of Pandemic
Several approaches to understanding social imaginary have been established. An anthropological tradition situates the social imaginary within the symbolic and structural order (Levi Strauss or Leroi-Gouran). In psychological and cognitive traditions, the social imaginary is traced through linguistic theories such as Lacan, or cultural symbols in Freud’s case. And a “collective social imaginary” has been posited in philosophical and sociological work on social movements, as in the work of Charles Taylor.
The events of 2020 ask us to reconsider the importance of the social imaginary. We can list several events reordered and affected by its binding force: financial inequity, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the politics of contesting monuments in public spaces.
Shifts in social imaginary can be seen in conflicts over established orders. No longer are white-collar workers deemed essential. Now essential workers labor in food production, health, and city facilities. Workplace and educational practices that required face-to-face presence find it challenging to sustain cherished ways of work. Tele-presence, once a contested way of doing and learning together, has become a norm.
Public spaces have become the shifting ground of social imaginary. The places of the bourgeois public sphere where people gathered and interacted, such as libraries, cafes, parks, and movie theaters, have closed, instantly erasing the physical spaces where citizens gathered in the name of civil society.
The politics of race, which have been around since the inception of America, have reemerged in the age of the pandemic. George Floyd’s death sparked a massive wave of protests that saw the Black Lives Matter movement serving as a glue for all social differences. For the first time since 1960, the spirit of internationalism reemerged with instances of protests around the world with direct empathy and association with the BLM movement.
A combination of racial politics and social movement to reclaim public spaces led the demonstrators to attack the monuments of those who were involved, in the past, in colonization and slave trade. There is nothing new about contestation over public arts. What is new is a sense of collective acceptance, by many, that questions what they stand for?
The following articles appeared in various journals that attracted our attention. We curated a few among them that address the shift in social imaginary, both from an ethnographic perspective and design thinking practices. There are many that we cannot fit in just one issue of this newsletter. Please help us consider more material in the same vein by either writing for us or pointing at important ones that we are missing here.