Where is the power in the pandemic?

May 21, 2020

     By Maria Faciolince     

I’ve got some important news for you today.

Throughout the upcoming weeks and months, Power Shifts is partnering with the Oxfam in Depth podcast to share the experiences of people living through the Coronavirus outbreak in our new Power in the Pandemic podcast. We’ll be hearing from people across the world as they tell us how COVID-19 is affecting their lives and how their communities are organizing to tackle the effects of the crisis.

We know that in every crisis there are seeds of transformation. This series aims to humanise the crisis, but also give us a window into the world that’s being created in the cracks of this crisis. What’s emerging, rising and filling the gaps now in clear display? 

Each episode will weave together different voices on different topics – from how migrant communities and island nations are facing up to the crisis, to the ways in which sexual and reproductive health rights are under attack. We’ll be listening to frontline health workers, farmers and domestic migrant workers to hear not just their experiences, but also their ideas about tackling the magnified inequalities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Note: we’re also interested in what so-called experts have to say, but we’re just not too keen on having their voices at the forefront of this discussion. They get plenty of airtime elsewhere!)

Follow our new Power Shifts Instagram page to get updates on the podcast & see the profiles of our featured speakers!

You can listen to the short trailer for more info on the podcast:

And tune into our first episode – Where is the power in the pandemic?‘ – which considers the global power imbalances at play during the pandemic, and the power of possibility in this particular historical moment:

Here are some stand-outs from the first episode:

This first episode brings together extracts from thought-pieces and other texts that consider the following question: How might we re-shape communities, organisations, and people as we emerge from COVID-19? 

We turn to Arundhati Roy’s recent piece, The Pandemic is a Portal, where she highlights the need to understand the history-shaping forces we’re up against, and casts the opportunity this pandemic offers in moral terms, as a ‘portal’.  We explore how framing the crisis as a gateway is a way of tapping into that form of power that grants the possibility to mobilise and connect, just as other framings do the opposite.  

We also feature David Mwambari’s voice (one of our first Power Shifts contributing writers over a year ago!) reading some of his writing on how the pandemic can be a catalyst for decolonisation in Africa. A key take-away here is the focus on thinking about this pandemic as a trigger for shifting power relations – historically founded and maintained, but definitely not unshakeable and quite possibly yielding to an ecosystem of power-shifting ideas that can arise out of creative solutions to the crisis. 

Understanding dominant narratives around COVID19 help us to see how deep power is used to justify for example who gets to access healthcare, and who doesn’t, whose voice is heard and who is silenced. And it is crucial to not lose sight of the very real, every day suffering many are faced with – especially when we attempt to reimagine our world through the cracks of this crisis.

In the final section of the first episode, we turn to the words of Interface Journal, who are putting together brilliant compilations of readings on how social movements are dealing with the current Coronavirus crisis. They clearly lay out the need to center the voices of those who have been struggling most, but who are also most committed to social change, and ask everyone to join efforts to amplify the voices of activists and those organising communities through this COVID-19 pandemic. 

What I want to rescue from these texts is that the power of possibility is a motif that we need to come back to time and time again throughout this story of crisis. This is a moment of pain, rapid changes and open ended questions. In the Power in the Pandemic podcast we’re hoping to grapple with these questions to meet our collective uncertainty together.

You can find the podcast on your favourite podcast provider. Tune in!