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Punctum Pandemic Reading List

Published onApr 01, 2020
Punctum Pandemic Reading List

The COVID-19 pandemic will be a watershed moment in many of our lives, and perhaps bring about the realization that despite the extraordinary wealth of some of us, our societies remain terribly fragile.

Yet at the same time, as a result of the pressures placed upon us by our work, the care for loved ones close by, the worries about those far away, and the altered states of mind that working from home and self-imposed isolation bring along, we may also feel more disconnected from reality than usual.

To mitigate the sense of profound alienation and justified rage that may have descended upon many of us, punctum books offers a brief reading list below of books that may serve as a potential way of reanchoring ourselves amid this avalanche of events and emotions. As per usual, all books are open access available for download for free from our website.

When I was working in Albania as a journalist, we used to joke that the Balkans produce more history in a day than the West in a year. It seems that nowadays at least some form of equality has been imposed in that respect.

As all education on all levels has suddenly transitioned – without proper training for those involved and without additional resources allocated for those with limited access to digital infrastructure – questions about the “classroom,” its form and content, are more crucial than ever. Steal This Classroom: Teaching and Learning Unbound by Jody Cohen and Anne Dalke engages the questions on these structural pressures on pedagogical environments and offers extensive case studies on how to teach and learn differently.

Much has been written in the last weeks on how the global pandemic has caught the US government unawares and unprepared. However, this lack of preparation – the result of willful defunding of critical infrastructures of care – is merely symptomatic of the aversion of Trumpist, white supremacist political ideology against questions of collective responsibility for our planet. Written in the weeks after the election of Trump, Kyle McGee’s Heathen Earth: Trumpism and Political Ecology offers a scathing analysis of the political ideology that brought us here.

The spread of the COVID-19 is, in a certain way, the confrontation of one form of life – mammalian – with another one – viral, a lifeform that transports itself through droplets and smudges, and replicates in the moist interiors of our warm-blooded bodies. Rachel Armstrong’s encyclopedic Liquid Life: On Non-Linear Materiality offers a deep engagement of the human and those other forms of life, familiar and unfamiliar, that share this planet, distilling a profound non-anthropocentric materiality in the process. (Also check out the upcoming publication The Viscous: Slime, Stickiness, Fondling, Mixtures by Freddie Mason.)

Lauren Greyson’s Vital Reenchantments: Biophilia, Gaia, Cosmos, and the Affectively Ecological takes a science studies approach to scholars engaging intimately with the planet and its ecology, transforming, in the process, a “cold” or “hard” scientific approach to nature as object to study into a affectively rapport with the world around us. In doing so, Vital Reenchantments shines a light on the scientific discourses that are currently being formed around the COVID-19 viral pandemic and the economies and ecologies of care that scientific research is being drawn to and into.

The exhibition catalog History According to Cattle is the outcome of the Museum of the History According to Cattle, an exhibition project by Laura Gustafsson and Terike Haapoja offering a non-anthropocentric, bovine cultural history. Now that COVID-19 in many ways has turned into a physical embodiment of the non-human, “viral logics” that have dominated both visual cultural and ideology over the decade (see in that context also Post Memes: Seizing the Memes of Production), History According to Cattle offers an approach to history and cultural narratives that is now more necessary than ever. (For more non-anthropocentric narratives, also keep an eye out for The Unnaming of Aliass by Karin Bolender.)

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