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For Meeting Up Again: Getting Stuck and Unstuck in Time-Spaces of COVID-19

James E Baker, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation unravels the foundational narratives of coronacrisis, their metaphors and their practices: transition into, through, and out of coronacrisis, and the hope of meeting-up – of co-evalness – through the catastrophe. Chapter Two offers an ethnographic account of an immigrant-owned delicatessen at the beginning of community spread in Lincoln, Nebraska. Here, through intensive immersion in this ethnographic place, I conceptualize the store’s checkout counter – kassa in Russian – as a boundary object where specific cultural practices structure translocal social worlds which link diaspora and homeland with socialist-era assemblages. As coronavirus leads to supply chain disruptions for the store, I observe how past transitions – such as those experienced by the owner’s family during the collapse of state socialism in the Soviet Union – subtly inform transitions into coronacrisis. In Chapter Three, I revisit the materialist rhetoric of Doreen Massey’s thrown togetherness in a series of autoethnographic vignettes describing the diverse trajectories and horizons of action which stretch the home as sphere – what Peter Sloterdijk calls “immune systemically effective space creations for ecstatic beings.” I observe that our everyday intimacies are reshaped as we move through the pandemic: my children are forced off a playground as public space locks down; I drive by dozens of commercial jets mothballed at an airport in Salina, Kansas as the pandemic grounds air travel in April, 2020 for the first time in decades; and I reflect on the birth of my daughter in a hospital room in the middle of a global pandemic. Home under lockdown, as I experience it, is a constellative phenomenon, enfolding relations around a multiplicity of places, people, lines, and mobilities. Finally, Chapter Four employs multimodal discourse analysis of the semiotic landscapes of Lincoln, Nebraska and Sioux Falls, South Dakota during the height of the pandemic from Spring into Summer, 2020, observing the ad hoc signage which mobilize ways out of the pandemic. Here, I analyze affective-discursive practices in public space – such as queueing stickers, yard signs, and window decals – in order to understand how we make meaning across thresholds of physical distance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Subject Area

Geography|Cultural anthropology|Political science|Economics|Sociology|Public health

Recommended Citation

Baker, James E, "For Meeting Up Again: Getting Stuck and Unstuck in Time-Spaces of COVID-19" (2021). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI28652503.