Reflections on Coronavirus days

-by Robert Braun, CAS, Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna

First day of effective curfew – basically government ordered ’stay home’ immobility in Vienna. Trying to settle in to the new temporary life: somewhat longer sleep, breakfast together with family and then starting work. Two online meetings – not unusual for international projects, but strange for our office jour fixe. I am looking at the video-feed, a somewhat strange intrusion into my colleague’s privacy, a voyeur’s peep into everybody’s home. Only those switch off video, who log on via phone – closing down is opening up in other ways. Later a walk to the local shop to get essentials: no cars; silence of the street, some people pass by. The sounds, or rather the no sound is eerie and uplifting. Families with children taking a walk, most of them letting their kids – small ones – run around; no fears of fast cars passing. People keep a distance when passing each other on the narrow pavement, but nobody steps off onto ’car territory’ yet.  

No passer by is rushing, people seem to walk slower. There are no meetings to be missed, people are not in a hurry. They also look at each other with worry – there is a sense of distrust, as the sickness is invisible. I pass an older lady with a dog, our dogs sniff each other, we both try to step back a little but the leashes hold us together; for a brief moment we are entangled, as always, but this time we do not want to get nearer to let the dogs befriend, but withdraw to our own; Harvey’s time-space compression[1] seems to aquire a new meaning. As labor, circulation, capital as well as movement and human spacetime is rearranged by a virus, time and space are both compressed and decompressed; commodities are behind closed doors; capital flows are blocked and mechanized movement is almost stopped.

Virus time and virus space is on. A beginning of an end. Of what is not yet known.

[1] David Harvey (1990) Between Space and Time: Reflections on the Geographical Imagination, Annals of the Association of American Geographers Vol. 80, No. 3. pp. 428-434. 

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