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COVID-19 as a mass death event

Han, Yuna, Millar, Katharine M. and Bayly, Martin J. (2021) COVID-19 as a mass death event. Ethics and International Affairs, 35 (1). 5 - 17. ISSN 0892-6794

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0892679421000022


As of the first week of February 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in over two million people dead across the globe. This essay argues that in order to fully understand the politics arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to focus on the individual and collective experiences of death, loss, and grief. While the emerging scholarly discourse on the pandemic, particularly in political science and international relations, typically considers death only in terms of its effects on formal state-level politics and as a policy objective for mitigation, we argue that focusing on the particularities of the experience of death resulting from COVID-19 can help us fully understand the ways in which the pandemic is reordering our worlds. Examining the ambiguous sociopolitical meaning of death by COVID-19 can provide broader analytical comparisons with other mass death events. Ultimately, the essay argues that centering the impact of the pandemic on the experience of death and loss directly poses the question of how politics should value human lives in the post-pandemic world, helping us better formulate the normative questions necessary for a more ethical future.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 07 May 2021 11:54
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 02:20

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