The inception event for the project,Vital Circulations: A Framework for Understanding Social Dynamics in and beyond a Pandemic, a White Rose Collaboration Project, took place on 28th June at the University of Leeds. As the project assistant who joined the team only recently, it was my first time to meet all the project members (find out more about this project and it’s project members here). It was also my first face-to-face academic event for quite a while. I have lost count of how long it has been!
The inception event was set up in a hybrid manner, that is, a combination of socially distanced co-precence in a room, and a zoom meeting. I did attend physically – so my first impression of this event is the act of actually travelling there, the whole experience of traveling to a venue, to be on the train, to come in contact with people for a non-virtual discussion, as well as the tea and coffee from the venue (Oh I do miss it!)
After each making a self-introduction, and a brief orientation from Jini, a really interesting audio fragment, from an experimental theatre in Japan was played as a provocation. It is a performing acupuncture theatre in which the body is turned into a stage. An ordinarily personal and private encounter of acupuncture, was given some special touch and gains theatricality and make me think about the body and its boundaries. The needle thus became a potent symbol for the crossing of boundaries and became the first object that fascinated me for the day.
For me, such a case of alternative health practices also sets a interesting backdrop for the discussion of the day on vital circulations in bio-medicla models.
Another material for provocation was a report on the risk of transmission in different scenarios (see the link here). In these reports, the body, the different bodies, are put under spotlight, the distance between bodies carefully calculated. Hence comes knowledge about risk and obligations. It goes without saying that being at the event itself is filled with such considerations – the care taken in maintaining ventilations, the distances, the masks, the hesitation in passing around objects.
For this inception event, every participant has been asked to bring a prop related to their research that has some bearing to the theme of vital circulations, to showcase the prop and to talk about it. This has turned out to be such a fascinating and thought-provoking exercise. There are different kinds of objects: hand sanitiser and hand cream -that have grown to become ordinary everyday objects since the pandemic, T-shirt from bone marrow donation charity, doctor’s outfit when working in covid wards, pin from patient groups, blood donor card, pamphlets for blood donation in Japan, different images about rare blood diseases in India. Everyone has also been given post-it notes to take notes of their thoughts on the props and the readings they think of, which have been collected at the end of the event.
The post-it notes later gained a virtual life online.
There are mundane objects and more specialist objects, objects imbued with personal meanings, images that give a glimpse into different values in relation to different conditions/acts of vital circulations in different parts of the world. And as can be seen in the collection of post-it notes, there was a lot of food for thoughts!
I have been collecting images of the props and provocations and might be posting more about them in the blog in the next couple of weeks! One prop that definitely rings a bell for everyone is the hand sanitizer and hand cream, which Lauren brought along:
This photo includes two material objects – 1) hand wipes and 2) hand cream. These objects relate to the two most recent projects I have been involved in which include exploring the experiences of hospitality workers and food delivery drivers/couriers as they have worked throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Hand wipes relate to the availability and/or lack of toilet and hand washing facilities for delivery drivers. For many of these workers, this has meant having hand wipes in their vehicle in the absence of provision. The hand cream relates to experiences of hospitality workers who have described getting incredibly sore hands and damaged skin as a result of increased cleaning procedures in hospitality settings. Together, both of these objects represent “quiet materialities” (Pink et al., 2014) in caring for and protecting the hands of workers.
Find out more about Lauren’s project here.
Keep an eye out for more props and more provocations!
(posted by Lijiaozi Cheng)