A Corona-Carnival? A carnivalesque interpretation of (im)mobilities under COVID-19 lockdowns


The soviet social theorist Mikhail M. Bakhtin identified the carnivalesque as logics of exaggeration, inversion and irony within the Medieval literatures and folk cultures he analyzed in Europe. Bakhtin theorized these logics as creative instances for foreseeing openings within an assumed normality. This paper proposes the conceptual gaze of the “carnivalesque” to rethink the reconfiguration of actors and practices around mobility, borders and migration during the initial lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic. This impasse worked as a corona-carnival in the midst of the current mobility regime. The use of "carnivalesque" in this article is not related to the playful aspects of carnival as a parade, but to the potential of the carnivalesque impasse for envisioning alternatives, which are not necessarily emancipatory but deeply ambivalent, grotesque and unfinished. That carnivalesque momentum, marked by social norms placed on pause, is captured in artistic and linguistic production, acting as a collective legacy for imagining futures otherwise. This paper compiles some keywords which emerged during the corona-carnival impasse, each holding hopeful and dystopian glimpses of possible alterations to the status-quo. These linguistic productions question assumed notions and practices of migration management, opening the social imagination to other ways of engaging with human mobilities.

Politics Journal: JCR Q1