Realism has predominated in discussions about the coronavirus pandemic where politicians, authorities, and commentators debate over the substance and consequence of scientific facts. But while biology played a crucial role in triggering the pandemic, the resulting crisis developed through a social process. In this paper, I argue that the coronavirus pandemic in Britain was successfully framed as a crisis, but that the ritualization of solidarity normally generated by this meaning was compromised. Through an analysis of media coverage and official statements from the government, I trace the discursive construction of the crisis through the deployment of battle metaphors. Building on this discourse analysis, I show how the symbolic alignment of the pandemic and the Second World War revived symbols and tropes that informed the cultural construction of pandemic heroes. To explain why the intensity of the crisis framing was not matched in ritual performance, I consider how the government’s ambiguous policies and erratic social performance produced a state of indefinite liminality, subverting solidarity processes in lockdown. The paper offers insight into the experience of anomie during the pandemic and contributes to the strong program in cultural sociology by incorporating the crisis approach in disaster studies into the social drama framework.
- Coronavirus pandemic