FEELing Through the Grapevine: March 2020


Welcome to the bimonthly recap of all things FEEL! But first of all, take these 5 minutes to ground yourself. Breathe, unclench your jaw, relax your shoulders. As we are watching the world entering a state we have never experienced before, it is important to care for ourselves and others. A lot of the people I know told me the same thing: they are alternating between two main moods. One, feeling very anxious and powerless in the face of this global pain and heartbreak. Two, feeling hopeful and happy to see so much positivity despite our current situation, lifted up by the acts of kindness and selflessness documented online. Because, now more than ever, social media is at the centre of our lives, creating networks of care and new ways of communicating/doing/educating. What is clear is that everyone who is able to stay home and practice physical distancing is doing the right thing, and of course the people who work to keep our world running are (s)heroes too. This newsletter is an attempt to navigate these troubled waters, and bring some peace of mind amidst more anxious concerns. Everyone has had to adapt to these new ways of living; what is exhausting is that we don’t know when it will stop. Or if it will ever go back to normal— but then again, do we want to go back to the same old ways? This pandemic has also raised very pressing questions and highlighted issues that need to be taken care of: consumerism and late capitalism, care and socio-economical structures, global travel, new economies, sustainability and climate change, access to culture and education, issues of political accountability, racism, efficiency and work ethics, human-animal kinship, and the mediation of (post)human relationships. So take this reading time for yourself, give some rest to potential stress, and don’t berate yourself for not functioning as much as the market dictates. It’s okay to feel like this. You are not alone.


Resilience in motion

Take a few minutes to read the article of our very special PhEm member Deborah Lupton, here. Deborah, a SHARP Professor and leader of the Vitalities Lab, University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, has developed an outstanding agenda for social research in a COVID and post-COVID world. She has been studying the social aspects of health and medicine her entire career and raises essential questions for what it means to be a social researcher in these troubled times. For her, “social research is again urgently needed to document people’s everyday experiences of living in this moment, how different countries and governments are addressing the pandemic and what social changes are occurring now or will be happening in the post-COVID world”. An eye-opening read, accompanied by research questions that need to be tackled today more than ever. Deborah also launched a crowdsourced document about doing fieldwork in a pandemic on March 17th. You can read it or add your ideas here.


Breathe in, breathe out

While the world is in crisis, some good things are perking up from the fallout: less pollution. With almost one third of the world confined, we have been witnessing just how large our impact on climate and nature is. Cleaner air in China and Italy, no more pollution fog in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta, clear waters in Venice’s Grand Canal— all around the world, global carbon emissions have fallen. The COVID-19 virus has forced countries to shut down factories and travel, drastically reducing the amount of pollution being released in the air. This article from the New York Times explains in more detail what this entails of— but “after the acute phase passes, industrial production and carbon emissions are likely to ramp back up” if we do not learn from our mistakes. This emergency situation has been putting the spotlight on local distribution networks and raised the issue of consumerism accompanying the lockdowns. In the wake of the economical crisis looming post-coronavirus, bigger companies and governments need to take steps towards sustainability for good. We might not be able to protest in the streets like the Fridays For Future right now, but we can for sure pressure them digitally— and, hopefully, learn from the crisis we’re in.

ESA/Cover Images/SIPA


In uncertain times

While we are overloaded with news and bits of information about the pandemic, it is also important to ground ourselves and allow ourselves some self-care. Duke University Press has released a syllabus of books and articles to read for free online until June 30, 2020, and it is just what we need: a collection tackling radical care in precarious situations, titled “Care in Uncertain Times”. The pieces of writing encompass a wide range of topics within care and self-care, especially when governments fail to care themselves for their people, and how community can provide respite for those who need it the most. Already read everything that interested you, or want to read about another subject? Duke University Press has other syllabi also available for free online: Environmentalism and Climate Change, Feminist Politics and Women’s Rights, Global Immigration, Navigating the Threat of Pandemic, Police Violence, Prison and the Carceral State, Racial Justice, Trans Rights, Women’s Labor.


Joint Ventures

For those who prefer listening to lectures, and are a bit overwhelmed with the situation right now, I have something that might work for you: a Skype talk with Donna Haraway and Karin Harrasser about kin and community.

Part of the 2019 Joint Ventures event series (Belvedere 21 Museum, Vienna, Austria), this talk explores what community solidarity looks like, and how will we remain empowered to act even in troubled times. Donna Haraway delves into art, ecology, feminism, activism, the climate crisis, and how artistic strategies are deployed in the face of the Chthulucene.


Strike the Pose

Two words: Netflix, binge-watch. As many have done it and will carry on doing, this lockdown is terribly tempting for all TV and movie enthusiasts— but let’s not feel guilty about binge-watching shows right now. We have bigger worries around the corner, and there’s worse as far as coping mechanisms go. This time at home is also a time for reconnecting with ourselves, feeding our mind with stories that can help us feel less alone, less anxious, less hopeless. So, next time you open Netflix, make sure to check out Pose. Pose, initially on the BBC, is a groundbreaking drama diving into the New York City ballroom scene at the height of the AIDS crisis. It was created, written, and directed by diverse people (including queer and trans folx, women, and black filmmakers) and the stellar cast is no different. A treat for anyone who wants to discover the ballroom scene and connect with real, heartfelt, respectful stories.


All aboard the stream train

For those who wish they could go out to see a play, musical, or opera, fear not. Several big names have made been streaming their shows online, in the wake of the lockdowns. Fancy some Shakespeare? Go to the Globe Player where they stream a full English-language Shakespeare play per fortnight. More into ballet? Sadler’s Wells streams shows on their Facebook page every Friday (streams available for 7 days). As for opera, The Metropolitan Opera has got you covered with “Nightly Streams” of several shows all week long (streams available for 23 hours). And for those who would rather read a good book, this article lists 45 places you can download books from, completely legally and for free!




Many conferences and academic events have been cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic. You can still plan ahead though, with for example the conference Taboo-Transgression-Transcendence in Art & Science (November 26–28, 2020, hosted by the University of Applied Arts Vienna, Austria). They have just extended their call for papers, posters and artist-talks to May 31st. Their website describes the event as including “theoretical and art practice presentations” focusing on “questions about the nature of the forbidden and aesthetics of liminality as expressed in art that uses or is inspired by technology and science,” and “on the opening of spaces for creative transformation in the merging of science and art”. PhEm scholars might be interested in presenting their research-art there!


And to end on a positive note, look at this picture of our sheroes Malala and Greta meeting in Oxford!


No matter your age or circumstances, we can all unite to campaign for a better world. Support your sisters and siblings, even more in these troubled times!

That’s all for March 2020, Pholks! Please do reach out if you have other events or stories that might be of interest. And don’t forget that we are in the midst of a crisis, maybe the most terrible of the last few decades; the uncertainty, pain, anxiety, and shock we are experiencing is deeply affecting all parts of our lives. For those who are working from home, you are not just working ‘remotely’ but trying to work while managing these new and deeply unsettling circumstances. The world is in the midst of big economic, social, and academic changes. We are all doing what we can with what we have. Let’s keep doing what we do best: caring, sharing, helping, educating, researching, surviving. We have each other. And we have ourselves. If you have tips, advice, or experiences you would like to share, do not hesitate to comment or reach out. This monthly digest is made possible through the PhEMaterialisms Facebook page, so don’t hesitate to engage with it. Have a wonderFEEL day!


Audrey Jean

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