Connect with us

Politics

Pandemic politics: Course explores the implications of our moment – Dal News

Published

on


As the global pandemic continues to be front and centre daily in the news and in interactions and decision-making, the need for further understanding and study of how it impacts us politically and socially, for the foreseeable future, continues to grow.

The Department of Political Science in Dalhousie’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is responding to the need to discuss these topics academically by introducing a new and topical course this term, entitled “The Politics of Pandemics” (POLI 3510), taught by Instructor Larissa Atkison. This course considers the relationship between plague and politics, both theoretically and in practice and will consider some of the most pressing questions that contagion has posed and revealed about the political communities they infect and affect.

Dr. Atkison (pictured) notes that she came up the idea for this new course during the winter term while wrapping up POLI 3505: Human Rights Foundations. When the pandemic hit in March, and faculty members were asked to quickly move online and adapt some of their assignments to ease the burden of the transition on students, Dr. Atkison explains that she decided to change her final exam format. She asked students to write a take-home exam about whether and how the experience of the pandemic had modified the understanding of human rights they had developed throughout the term, and especially of rights such as mobility, freedom of assembly, privacy and so on.

“Responses to this prompt were exceptional,” says Dr. Atkison. “Across the board students submitted their best work all term.

“From that exercise, I saw that there was a real appetite in our student body to work through and align the disorienting experience of the pandemic with the intellectual frameworks they have been cultivating in their classes. From that point, it was a matter of approaching the department chair, David Black, who was very receptive, and working quickly to put together a proposal for approval that could be added to the course calendar.” 

Engaging in different media

Dr. Atkison adds that as she’s a contingent faculty member, there was no guarantee that she would be teaching this course after pitching it. She is grateful to have been awarded the contract after it had been posted through the normal CUPE channels and is very pleased that the class has reached capacity and has added a wait list.

In this course, students will spend their time in collaborative discussion groups and will have an opportunity to submit reflective blogs at the end of each unit. These blogs will give students an opportunity to bring assigned course readings into conversation with material they are accessing online (such as news stories, YouTube videos, and academic blogs) in a more relaxed medium.

“Many of our students are steeped in these alternative modes of information gathering and sharing. I think it is therefore valuable to adapt curricular design so that students learn how to approach these sources with the same discerning and critical lens we apply to traditional academic material.”

Ethical and political issues

Dr. Atkison hopes that this course will allow students better perspective on how to interpret ethical and political responses to the pandemic that are all around us. Some of these variations in political responses include the public’s responses to issued guidelines around physical distancing and also the rise in xenophobia. Additionally, course work in the class will discuss how the pandemic has catalyzed tolerance for change.

“For example,” explains Dr. Atkison, “universal basic income — a fringe idea a year ago — is now being discussed as a practical policy option in most of the major news outlets and policy think tanks in this country. Globally, we’ve seen invigorated nationalism throughout Europe, widespread surveillance accepted in Israel and South Korea, and a breakdown of international norms around migration and refugee acceptance. And these are just a few ways that this issue is shaping contemporary politics.”

Dr. Atkison hopes that this class will offer students the opportunity to work collaboratively and to contextualize this experience in a broader history of epidemiological disaster and political chance and renewal and that an understanding of that history will allow them to see the possibilities available to us as we emerge out of this defining moment.

“I hope that the novelty of this event — that it is happening now — will empower students to see a tangible connection between the critical thinking we do in classrooms, political realities, and their capacity to shape such realities through their critical thinking and acting.”


Comments

All comments require a name and email address. You may also choose to log-in using your preferred social network or register with Disqus, the software we use for our commenting system. Join the conversation, but keep it clean, stay on the topic and be brief.
Read comments policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.
comments powered by Disqus

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Politics

Jonathan Kay: B.C. NDP succumbs to the leftist battle over identity politics – National Post

Published

on


Article content continued

The next day, the star candidate was joined by Annita McPhee, former president of the Tahltan First Nations government, whose lands comprise part of the Stikine riding. But McPhee didn’t just jump in: she also called on Cullen to jump out. According to a motion adopted in 2011, older male NDP MLAs who retire must be replaced with either a woman or a member of an “equity-seeking” group. Cullen, a white guy born and raised in Toronto, doesn’t qualify.

In the days since, the plot thickened, with the party president releasing a vague statement indicating that “in certain instances, despite extensive candidate searches, our regulations permit allowances for other candidates to be considered.” It also turned out that the definition of “equity-seeking” is quite broad. In the last election, one married male NDP candidate, who’d always presented as straight, abruptly claimed he was bisexual. Another white male candidate got nominated after saying he had a hearing impairment.

I hadn’t heard of the B.C. NDP’s equity-seeking policy until this week. But its existence shouldn’t surprise me. The whole thrust of modern identity politics is to rank the acuteness of human oppression — and, by corollary, the urgency of the associated political demands — on the basis of race, sex and other personal traits. It makes sense that this principle should now be institutionalized, and weaponized, by politicians competing for status and power in a left-wing party that explicitly claims to represent the oppressed. Not so long ago, oppression was defined in NDP circles according to a Marxist understanding of labour and capital — which is why unions had such a prominent role in the party. But those days are long gone. Just last month, in fact, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh used his Twitter account to promote officially debunked conspiracy theories suggesting that a Black Toronto woman was murdered in May by a half dozen (unionized) Toronto police officers.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

Coronavirus: Ministers balance science and politics in latest rules – BBC News

Published

on


It’s not a day for optimists, even though the prime minister himself is one of that tribe.

Tomorrow, it will be six months exactly since he told the nation to stay at home.

This time, Boris Johnson stopped well short of slamming the country’s doors shut.

But what really stood out in his long statement in a miserable-looking Commons was his message that the limits put in place today will last another six months.

Even if you are very fond of your own company, lucky enough to have a secure job you enjoy and a comfy spare room where you can do it, it is quite something to contemplate.

The government now expects that all our lives will be subject to restrictions of one kind or another for a whole year – March 2020 to March 2021.

As each month ticks by, it becomes harder to imagine a return to anything like normal political life, or, more importantly, the way we all live.

We may not be waiting for a return to life as we knew it, but grinding through a moment of change.

‘Shelter the economy’

But if you were listening carefully, something else was different too.

The country became familiar with the slogan “Stay At Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” – it was emblazoned on government lecterns, repeated again and again by government ministers in interview after interview, on bus shelters, pop-up ads on the internet, wherever you looked.

That phrase was retired after the most intense period of the lockdown, but echoed today with one important additional condition.

Boris Johnson’s driver today was to “save lives, protect the NHS” and “shelter the economy”.

As we discussed here yesterday, concerns about the economy played more strongly in Downing Street after fierce resistance from backbenchers, and arguments from the next-door neighbour in No 11 of the economic risks of a short, sharp closure programme.

Fears about how the country makes a living have always been part of the decision-making process for the government, grappling with these acute dilemmas.

But the political appetite inside the Tory party for sweeping restrictions has certainly dimmed.

The changes announced today do make economic recovery harder, the “bounce back” the government dreamt of looks harder to achieve, but they are not as draconian as they may otherwise have been.

The choices made by Nicola Sturgeon to restrict social lives much further than in England, as in Northern Ireland, point to that difference.

Ministers used to make great play of following the science, now they are certainly following the politics too.

Only the unknowable progress of the disease will, in time, suggest which call was right.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

Covid: How the coronavirus pandemic is redefining Scottish politics – BBC News

Published

on


The pandemic has probably done more than anything to define Scottish devolution in 21 years of Holyrood decision making.

Before coronavirus, the Scottish Parliament’s policy choices – from free personal care for the elderly to minimum pricing of alcohol – made it distinctive.

Now, Scottish ministers are making life and death decisions affecting everybody almost every day.

The exercise of emergency powers to combat Covid-19 commands public attention like nothing before.

We’ve had six months of lockdown restrictions and after a recent period of relaxation, they are tightening again as coronavirus cases rise.

Paying attention is essential to knowing whether or not you can go to work, visit your granny or have friends round for dinner.

It is First Minister Nicola Sturgeon rather than the prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is deciding for Scotland because public health is devolved.

Many of her decisions so far have matched those by the UK government for England and the devolved administrations for Wales and Northern Ireland.

That was especially true in the early stages of the crisis when there was much talk of a four nations approach – but differences have emerged over time.

The Scottish government has generally been more cautious about lifting restrictions than the UK government.

Bars and restaurants stayed closed in Scotland for longer and it was slower to lift quarantine for people arriving from Spain, before this was reimposed across the UK.

By contrast, the Scottish government was the first in the UK to restore full-time classroom education in schools after the summer.

Scottish ministers did coordinate with the other administrations to introduce the “rule of six” for people attending social gatherings.

However, on closer inspection, the Scottish rule differs from that for England in two key respects.

It is more restrictive in limiting the six people to two different households and more flexible in exempting children under the age of 12.

This is devolved decision making in action as never before.

Some argue divergence across the UK is confusing and undesirable, but opinion polls consistently suggest the Scottish public trust Holyrood to set the pace.

After a period in which Conservatives argued that Scotland should leave lockdown in lockstep with the rest of the UK, a multi-speed approach became accepted.

The pandemic, however unwanted, has given Ms Sturgeon an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and the public seems to appreciate that too.

An Ipsos Mori survey for BBC Scotland in May suggested 82% of people thought Ms Sturgeon was handling the pandemic either very or fairly well.

By contrast, only 30% from the same sample of around 1,000 Scottish adults gave Boris Johnson similar credit.

More recent polling has produced similar indications even although coronavirus outcomes are not profoundly different between the UK nations.

The Office for National Statistics reported that England had the highest increase in excess deaths in Europe to the end of May. At that point, Scotland had the third highest behind Spain.

While politicians of all stripes have been working to suppress coronavirus, coronavirus has suppressed much of our everyday politics.

Previous Holyrood priorities like completing an expansion of free childcare, introducing new devolved benefits and reviewing the school curriculum have been deferred.

Major controversies such as the Scottish government’s mishandling of complaints about the behaviour of the former first minister, Alex Salmond, seem less potent.

Independence referendum

The Scottish government parked preparations for an independence referendum in 2020 to prioritise its response to the pandemic.

That has not meant opinion on the major constitutional question in Scottish politics has remained static.

As coronavirus has swept the country, a trend has emerged in opinion polls suggesting there is now majority support in Scotland for independence.

Some analysts suggest this could be directly linked to the focus on devolved leadership in the crisis.

The trend has worried Conservatives enough to change their Scottish party leader and some in Scottish Labour have unsuccessfully tried to change theirs.

Those who favour the union point out that Scotland has been supported by what they call the “broad shoulders” of the UK economy throughout the pandemic.

Lockdown is largely underwritten by the Treasury with huge funding for furlough and other schemes to support business.

Nationalists say this help would be replicated by Holyrood if it had the economic powers of independence.

Unionists question the scope for doing so in a country which, as a devolved part of the UK, had a notional deficit of £15bn before the pandemic took full effect.

Economics will always be important in the debate over independence as will the public’s sense of identity.

In the 2014 referendum, Scotland voted 55%-45% for continued union. If indyref2 was held tomorrow, the polls suggest the result would go the other way.

There is much that could sway opinion further – both for and against independence – in the coming months.

The economic crisis the pandemic brings, the impact of Brexit and the efforts of politicians to overcome the continuing health emergency could all have a bearing.

The public could weary of politicians telling them what they can and can’t do especially if their livelihoods are on the line.

Arguments over all this and more will find expression in the campaign for next May’s Holyrood elections.

Together with elections to the Welsh Assembly and local government in England, these will be the first major votes of the pandemic.

A pandemic that has already given new definition to devolved power and could be playing a role in shaping opinion on the future of the Union

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending