The uneven distribution of futurity: Slow emergencies and the event of COVID-19

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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic strains conventional temporal imaginaries through which emergencies are typically understood and governed. Rather than a transparent and linear temporality, a smooth transition across the series event/disruption-response-post-event recovery, the pandemic moves in fits and starts, blurring the boundary between normalcy and emergency. This distended temporality brings into sharp relief other slow emergencies such as racism, poverty, biodiversity loss, and climate change, which inflect how the pandemic is known and governed as an emergency. In this article, we reflect on COVID-19 responses in two settler colonial societies-Australia and the United States-to consider how distinct styles of pandemic responses in each context resonate and dissonate across the racially uneven distribution of futurity that structures liberal order. In each case, the event of COVID-19 has indeed opened a window that reveals multiple slow emergencies; yet in these and other responses this revelation is not leading to meaningful changes to address underlying forms of structural violence. In Australia and the United States, we see how specific slow emergencies-human-induced climate change and anti-Black violence in White supremacist societies, respectively-become intensified as liberal order recalibrates itself in response to the event of COVID-19.



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