Close to home in the time of Covid-19
Lockdown and other social distancing measures have brought aspects of home-making that we take for granted into perspective. There have been reduced opportunities to engage in home-making practices beyond our domestic dwellings, including the cultivation of a sense of belonging that can come with gathering in larger groups or in communal venues such as football stadia. Our intimate home spaces can ordinarily provide retreats from the outside world and anchor points for self-reflection and development. Ideally, home is a space where we can let down our guard, feel restored and gain a sense of control. Aspects of who we are come to life within and around our domestic dwellings. Home places are where much of who we are takes shape and is nurtured over time.
Evidently, daily routines end up much more focused when they are restricted to homes and essential expeditions outside to garner supplies. Fleeting and socially distanced acts of kindness, such as a wave during a walk, may seem insignificant on the surface, but can reconnect people during a time of uncertainty, fear and dislocation. Even whilst largely confined to our houses, we have reached out to others through community-focused actions such as doorway applause for essential workers, musical recitals from balconies, placing soft toys in street-facing windows, issuing street newsletters, and writing inspiring chalk messages on the pavement. The numerous and creative ways we communicate messages of care, solidarity and a sense of community are a timely reminder that we are not alone and that the challenges of Covid-19 require both personal and collective actions.
Despite our efforts to connect and maintain some sense of belonging, which is foundational to a healthy mind, the narrowing of our lifeworlds provides opportunities for us to more fully immerse ourselves in our immediate environments, and to perhaps notice aspects that may have previously escaped our attention. This includes how our homes are no longer closed to the outside world as self-isolating enclaves of everyday life under lockdown. With advances in digital technology, the world still comes into the home via streaming, gaming and e-meeting. When restricted to one’s dwelling, the pervasiveness of media technologies in everyday settings provides various means to connect with other people and events at a distance. The notion of the double articulation of space, initially coined by the media geographer Roger Silverstone in his 1999 book Why Study the Media? refers to the ways in which people conduct their lives and wider social engagements across online and offline spaces using media technologies. Hence, a person can be physically located at their dining table whilst being psychologically located in a Zoom meeting. As recent psychological scholarship on migration illustrates, many home-making practices can occur across considerable physical distances, whereby migrants in new locations can still experience psychological closeness to their countries of origin.
Much has been written on the ways in which Covid-19 has accentuated existing inequities. There are stark distinctions between groups in terms of their everyday experiences of lockdown and social distancing. For many of us, everyday life under lockdown may involve both the joys and challenges of remote working, family time, home cooking and virtual nattering. Yet, for increasing numbers of people, lockdown at home means either isolation or over-crowding, alongside a range of added pressures resulting from income loss, food insecurity, substandard residences, the digital divide, conflict, and the risk of violence or abuse. For such groups, Covid-19 has added further pressures to already stressed and strained lives. Moreover, the broader impacts of Covid-19 are resulting in poverty and hardship for people who may not have previously had such experiences. Clearly not all people have equal access to digital media and ready means of connecting with the outside world. Students without internet connections or devices face considerable barriers to participating in education and wider society. These are the very issues and concerns that we spend considerable time deliberating upon and offering responses to in Social Psychology and Everyday Life.
As Reicher and Drury noted in their online piece ‘Don't personalise, collectivise!’ the pandemic has prompted a major ‘wake-up call’. As a breaching point in history, responses to Covid-19 around the globe reflect varying levels of emphasis on individual self-interest, or the need for greater collaboration and cooperation. Many of us are reminded that most of the significant and enduring endeavours across human history have required people to work collaboratively, rather than alone as neoliberal self-absorbed individuals looking for personal profit. We can learn from the strengths and weaknesses of societies to ensure humane recovery strategies that enable people to function both personally and collectively within the contexts of their everyday lives. We need to work together to create more inclusive societies within which everyone has opportunities to feel at home.
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