In their new book, The City Law School’s Dr Sabrina Germain and Dr Adrienne Yong explore social inequalities brought to the fore by the COVID-19 public health crisis.
The below are excerpts taken from the Introduction – Perspectives on Power, Gender and Marginalization, by Germain S, Yong A (eds) Beyond the Virus: Multidisciplinary and International Perspectives on Inequalities raised by COVID-19 (Bristol University Press, 2023).
During 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold globally, claiming countless lives, yet more widely throwing everyday life into disarray for countless more. As the pandemic unfolded, it became more and more obvious that whilst everyone was susceptible to contracting the virus, there were stark social inequalities being brought to the fore in many areas outside simply direct health consequences. The topic of COVID-19 became central to many research areas in a multitude of different disciplines across the world, leading to an explosion of scholarship, mainly reactionary pieces of research published in response to the developments occurring in real time, leaving a gap in the literature for a broader reflection on what has happened since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in early 2020.
Our own contribution to the COVID-19 scholarship was added in October 2020 in this way, through a co-authored journal article that brought together both of our expertise in health law, race and gender issues and migration from a feminist perspective in the context of the pandemic. It outlined our emerging research on the disproportionate impact on women possessing certain intersectional characteristics, centring on the barriers to accessing healthcare. However, the increasing amount of COVID-19 scholarship began to demonstrate that experts in the fields of law, policy and other humanities were interested in studying the diverse impact of the pandemic on populations in their specific fields, but had yet to take a multidisciplinary approach to understanding how the phenomenon has deepened existing inequalities outside direct health consequences. It was from this premise that the idea for the edited collection was born, having realised that the inequalities raised by the pandemic pervaded all areas of society and worldwide.
Streams of Inequality
Beyond the Virus has provided us with an opportunity to fill a significant gap in the literature, with its carefully crafted array of chapters from multiple disciplines and international experts who are proudly from a variety of different backgrounds. The originality in this volume is thus its consideration of these issues in relation to the pandemic, focusing on thematic strands to gain a greater understanding of these underlying problems, including how the law, or absence of it, has exacerbated inequalities. We identified three strands in particular that emerged from considering inequalities beyond just the virus itself: on power and governance, on gender, and for marginalised communities. It is under these three themes that this collection uncovers how unequal the pandemic truly is.
The first section on power and governance seeks to interrogate whether the State has taken into account external factors in their governance of the COVID-19 public health crisis beyond just the medical aspects of the virus. The second section on gender seeks to investigate how gender inequalities have been forgotten in the imposition of and messaging around accommodations made to curb the spread of the virus. The third section on marginalised communities seeks to give voice to groups of vulnerable individuals and understand whether during the pandemic they have become more sidelined because of the prioritisation of the public health crisis.
Diversity was considered in all of our chapters and contributors in various forms. It was in the sense of seniority in the academy, with our collection including doctoral scholars and early career researchers alongside mid-career researchers and Professors. It was in the context of a balance of genders and ethnicities, both in terms of the subject matter of chapters themselves as well as the identities of the authors themselves contributing to the volume. Diversity was also considered geographically. The collection does not solely focus on a Western nor single national perspective. We sought to represent both the Global North and the Global South in areas of the world which the pandemic has drawn attention to, demanding a more critical evaluation of countries in the spotlight of global media. The intersectional nature of a number of the issues was also salient and a key factor. Finally, diversity was also important to us in terms of methodologies and disciplinary approaches. This was especially necessary given the pandemic’s ubiquity. We drew from politics, sociology, culture and media and journalism to enrich our exploration of issues beyond just the law in order to provide a unique outlook on the pandemic domestically, internationally and globally.
These inequalities have long existed without sufficient political attention and are questions that are now more urgent due to the widespread global effects of the pandemic. They are complex questions requiring a multi-layered approach and a more focused and in-depth analysis. With its explicit focus on promotion of diversity as seen through the international and multidisciplinary approaches taken by the range of chapter contributors, this collection can critically assess how the COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on social inequalities in the context of the three streams, with the specific intention of looking beyond the virus, and towards many other areas of inequalities that has hit so many so hard.
Contributors to the edited collections are as follows:
· Buhm-Suk Baek, Professor of Public International Law, Kyung Hee University (South Korea).
· Louise Bernier, Professor in Health Law & Bioethics, Law Faculty, Université de Sherbrooke (Canada).
· Gwilym David Blunt, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for International Policy Studies, City, University of London.
· Julia Boelle, PhD graduate of Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture.
· Mylaine Breton, Professor in the Department of Social Science and Medicine, Université de Sherbrooke (Canada).
· Valentina Cardo, Associate Professor of Politics and Identity, Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton.
· Y.Y. Brandon Chen, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law Faculty, University of Ottawa (Canada).
· Marie-Ève Couture Ménard, Professor at the Faculty of Law Faculty, Université de Sherbrooke (Canada).
· Jean-Frédéric Ménard, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Sherbrooke (Canada).
· Naomi Finch, Lecturer in Social Policy, Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York.
· Roy Gilbar, Professor in the School of Law, Netanya Academic College (Israel).
· Simon Halliday, Professor in Socio-Legal Studies, York Law School, University of York.
· Nili Karako-Eyal, Senior Lecturer, Haim Striks School of Law College of Management (Israel).
· Jed Meers, Lecturer in Law, York Law School, University of York.
· Natalia Pires de Vasconcelos, Assistant Professor of Law, Insper Instituto de Ensino e Pesquisa (Brazil).
· Joe Tomlinson, Professor in Public Law, York Law School, University of York.
· Mark Wilberforce, Senior Research Fellow, Social Policy Research Unit, University of York.