Inspired by the Council’s Rachel Tanur Memorial Prize for Visual Sociology, we ask prominent scholars to select
a visual artifact of this time that will help future researchers understand the Covid-19 crisis.
Economist and Executive Director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, The Ohio State University
"By placing this graph in a time capsule, I would hope that future iterations of our society would realize that [these racial mortality disparities are] preventable; that there are steps we could have put in place so as to not make a population so vulnerable, a population identified by something as cursory as their race."
Professor of International Politics, School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary University of London
“[T]he image encapsulates that particular moment in time when the Diamond Princess focused global attention on Covid-19 and became a vector of the illness itself... By including the cruise ship, I want to highlight the effects that this mode of transport has had on the movement of the illness and also to discuss the invisible elements of this broader story, of which there are very few images.”
Professor of Economics, Columbia University
We can’t hypothesize about what it means when unemployment rates rise this rapidly because it’s never happened before....We do know there is a [positive] relationship between unemployment and homelessness....[Medical experts say] we're supposed to stay home and wash our hands...if you're homeless, you can't do either. If the historical relationship between unemployment and homelessness holds, then you'll have a group of people who will probably be more vulnerable to Covid-19 and, therefore, to increasing the spread of coronavirus in the second and third surges.
Professor of Political Science and Director, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute, Johns Hopkins University
“the image is emblematic of how limited our capacities for public accountability have become. How is it that frontline healthcare workers are left with such a paucity of available repertoires to advocate for what they believe is right? In this image, this nurse is reduced to a solitary standoff against a line of huge trucks. The pandemic has exposed the emaciated nature of so many of the systems that govern our lives… In choosing this picture, I was thinking particularly of the way it shows that government has been unable to solve the most basic problems in peoples’ lives, and the brokenness of our democracy in providing people with opportunities to hold unwilling or unresponsive leaders accountable. As a result, people are pitted against each other in a fight for the scraps government has left."
Director of the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion and Dean of the School of Social Sciences, UC Irvine
"The image is a “How would you like to pay?” sign. Something like what you’d see in a store or restaurant or online; and it gives you the options of Visa, MasterCard, or toilet paper. When the pandemic and shelter-in-place started, there was a rush to the stores to hoard toilet paper… This led to a broader commentary online and elsewhere about the nature of “value”…That’s what is interesting to me about the image. It captures more than just the pandemic."
Andrew W. Mellon Professor, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study
"Congiunti is a synonym for relatives, but is mostly used in legal and bureaucratic documents. Although it is part of the vernacular, it is not the colloquial word Italians use to refer to relatives, which is parenti. The hashtag #congiunti gained national and international attention at the end of April 2020, when the Italian government announced the rules for the so-called Phase Two—the partial relaxation of the stay-at-home policy....The rule ignited satire and serious commentary."
Loren B. Landau
Professor and South African Research Chair on Migration and the Politics of Difference, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
[I]n a place like South Africa, which has an extraordinary constitution and an official commitment to social justice, Covid-19 reveals the strong anti-poor impulses among police and politicians... We are seeing the rise of “autocrats in lab coats,” using medicine to justify or enable interventions aimed at the most vulnerable populations.
Founder, Data & Society and Member, SSRC Board of Directors
"Somewhere in the American psyche, there’s still an awareness that their convenience is someone else’s problem. But it would be un-American to demand that such workers are compensated for their risk. After all, that would result in higher prices. Instead, we thank such workers with care packages meant to symbolically show our appreciation without actually ensuring that those workers and their families are safe."
Goddard Professor in Media, Culture and Communication at New York University; Professor of Anthropology at The Hertie School – Berlin
“the image begins to capture the very real problems for two categories of people… the migrant worker and the slum dweller [who] are the hardest hit under the current regime and the most vulnerable to a rampant pandemic, in India…The image of Dharavi is just one example of a larger narrative, telling the story of the horrible conditions so many people across the globe find themselves in… Dharavi, highlights the starkness of the problem, but it does not exhaust the horizon of more optimistic possibilities.”
Na’ilah Suad Nasir
President of the Spencer Foundation
"[T]he post suggests that the ways in which we've been thinking about the implications of this pandemic for education are a bit reductive and that, in fact, young people are thinking about this in much more complex and sophisticated ways than adults are…So much of the approach has been about providing devices and thinking about inequality as a shortage of devices. What this post makes apparent is that, even if you have the devices, if the medium's not speaking to what young people need, they will engage it in a way that makes the space for them to take care of themselves…[T]he post suggests an approach to education and studying education that is broader, that is more about…how systems are meeting people's needs or not."
Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, Columbia University
We've experienced decades where labor has been disparaged... Yet... these workers were on the front lines. They were risking their lives to do things that aren't glorified... [N]o one lionizes the grocery worker. No one lionizes the pharmacist. No one lionizes this guy on his bike. If we're going to have a revitalized movement around the treatment of workers in this country... Covid-19... has made the best argument for workers. An argument much better than anyone else could have made.