Pandemics as Crisis Performance: How Populists Tried to Take Ownership of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Keywords: pandemic, Covid-19, populism, crises, ontology, performance, politization


With the Covid-19 pandemic dominating the agenda, it seems almost natural that it be associated with another buzzword: populism. As the pandemic advances, it seems that the prediction of populism surviving the pandemic due to its own diversity has been proved right, given the variation in responses by populists around the world. One common denominator stands out though: populists across the political spectrum understood the benefits of performing the Covid-19 crisis as a tool to strengthen their political positions. They tried to politicize the pandemic to increase the antagonism between the people and the elites. In this article, I introduce the notion of crisis as both a construct and a performance, and as a useful concept to analyze populist reactions to the pandemic. I argue that notwithstanding the attempts to politicize the pandemic, the Covid-19 crisis ended up imposing its own reality. In other words: the crisis could not be owned by politics.

Author Biography

Erica Simone Almeida Resende, Brazilian War College, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,

Erica Simone Almeida Resende holds a double B.A. in Legal Studies and International Relations, and a PhD in Political Science from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Her research interests are U.S. foreign policy, identity politics, memory and trauma studies, discourse analysis, and critical security studies. Working from South America, she has authored over 12 books in both Portuguese and English, as well as publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals. She is a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and a U.S. State Department alumna since 2006. She is Assistant Professor of International Relations and Security Studies at the Brazilian War College in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she is head of the Laboratory on Critical Security Studies.

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