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Dancing with Coronaspheres: Expanded Breath Bodies and the Politics of Public Movement in the Age of COVID-19

Elswit, Kate (2022) Dancing with Coronaspheres: Expanded Breath Bodies and the Politics of Public Movement in the Age of COVID-19. Cultural Studies. ISSN 0950-2386 (In Press)

Abstract

This essay develops the concept of the ‘coronasphere’ to grapple with how breath shifts the perceptible extent of the body during a pandemic, and the implications of such a radically altered sense of proximity for the choreography of public movement. Coming into being through an act of perception that is entangled with responsibility to others, the coronasphere is offered as a sensory alternative to fixed-distance models of social distancing approaches to risk, one that overrides the false dichotomy between the seeming stasis of shelter-in-place on the one side, versus ‘freedom’ of movement on the other. Redefining the extent of bodies relationally by the range of their breath has implications for understanding the uneven impacts of COVID-19 in terms of tactile entanglements and the vulnerability to uninvited touch that may violate bodies as individual and impermeable, in particular when the capacity for movement is limited. Ultimately turning to the coherence of such expanded bodies in terms of individual versus communal mobilization through a series of protests, the essay shows how the pandemic can not only reify but challenge the conflation of freedom and mobility, and the sensory ramifications of this in terms of finding new ways to rebuild public life.

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