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Vol. 5 No. 1 (2022): Pandemic Politics and Phenomenology

Differential Experiences of Social Distancing: Considering Alienated Embodied Communication and Racism

  • Luna Dolezal
  • Gemma Lucas
February 9, 2023


In this musing we consider how social distancing, the primary public health measure introduced to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, is creating social encounters characterized by a self-and-other-consciousness and an atmosphere of suspicion, leading to what we call “alienated embodied communication.” Whilst interaction rituals dominated by avoidance, fear and distrust are novel for many individuals who occupy positions of social privilege, Black and ethnic minority writers have demonstrated that the alienated bodily communication of COVID-19 social distancing is “nothing new” for people who routinely experience marginalization as a result of racism. Our aim in this musing, then, is to reflect on how on-going experiences of stigma, shame, and marginalization can shape how social distancing is registered on an embodied and existential level, and therefore how social distancing may differentially impact individuals with lived experiences of racism.