Financial crises tend to have a long-lasting effect on societies. COVID-19 will be no exception given that its economic and social impact is fueled by a public-health emergency that is difficult to curb and that is putting tremendous pressure on healthcare systems around the world.
The unequal impacts of COVID-19 demonstrate an urgent need for sociological interrogations of disability as a social category and axis of inequality commensurate with race, class, and gender and intersecting with them. While disability can be a marker of health status, it is also a unique social category with particular politics structuring disabled people’s lives and reflecting interlocking systems of oppression. We provide examples of how the pandemic reveals disability is a societally mediated category of existence that is (de)valued in particular ways.
An official in Cairo, Illinois dispatched a message to his counterparts in Washington, DC. He warned, the “country below is in the hands of a howling mob.” Locals not yet touched by the disease went into lockdown. In the absence of permanent public health officials or institutions, coalitions of citizens and elected officials living in uninfected areas took up arms to impose “shotgun” quarantines to fend off outsiders.
After a messy, partisan fight in the State Legislature and State Supreme Court, Wisconsin held an in-person election on April 7, 2020. At that point the state had confirmed 2,500 COVID-19 cases and lost at least 92 people to the virus, with the majority of the suffering concentrated in Milwaukee’s Black community. As a poll worker in Madison, I spent election day behind a Plexiglas window, wearing a homemade mask, checking voters’ names in the poll book. Some voters came wearing masks and gloves. Some wrapped their IDs in plastic to avoid contact.
To slow the spread of the coronavirus, schools across the United States are expecting students to continue learning at home. That means attending real-time class meetings, completing worksheets and online modules, and even taking exams online. Unfortunately, some schools are also holding students accountable for at-home learning, basing grades, course placements, and college eligibility on work completed at home. That accountability, I will argue, has the potential to exacerbate longstanding inequalities in school.
Founded at the turn of the 21st century, our section has long been committed to unpacking the complex web of relationships that exist between humans and other animals. As COVID-19 can be traced to exposure to animals used for food (likely in wet markets or piggeries), our subfield is perhaps ideally positioned to offer critical insight.
Persons experiencing addiction may be at very high risk of infectious disease like COVID-19 due to high rates of smoking, recent imprisonment, conditions like HIV/AIDS, and high-risk behaviors (Ezzati et al. 2002; Farhoudian, et al. 2020). During the COVID-19 pandemic, most courts have shuttered, and treatment center admissions have halted, yet the opioid crisis rages on. Addiction intersects with material hardship, trauma, broken institutions, and human frailty in a multidimensional web of disadvantage (Desmond and Western 2018)—a process illustrated by COVID-19.
Age has been used both to identify the impact of and shape the response to COVID-19. We have long heard that those who are 65+ are at greater risk; the CDC reports that people in this age group account for 8 of 10 deaths. As frightening as these numbers are, they do not translate into 8 of 10 elders dying, or even 8 of 10 of those infected.
American Sociological Review: As of August 1, 2020, all new submissions and correspondence should be sent to the new editors: Art Alderson and Dina Okamoto, Department of Sociology, 1020 E. Kirkwood Avenue, 744 Ballantine Hall, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47404; (812) 855-2791; email@example.com; submission site http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/asr.
Application Deadline: December 15