Rituals of Coexistence: Bodies and Technology during Pandemics

Keywords: embodiment, technology, resonance, ritual, hedonism


Pandemics not only challenge health systems and the economy, they also deeply transform our everyday lives and the ways in which we coexist. People have to find new definitions of what it means to be close to one another, to show empathy and to comfort each other. With social distancing, we must learn how to use digital technologies to create novel forms of closeness. Viruses becomes the new other, alien forces that invisibly permeate social life. They find hosts predominantly in the places where humans get close to each other. Rituals such as eating, drinking, and dancing are the links that hold an otherwise largely disembodied culture together. I will combine a perspective on human cognitive evolution as an embodied process, the hedonist drive towards bodily encounter in Sigmund Freud’s sense and the development of technology and the current tendency toward a culture of disembodiment. The article asks what the role of bodily ritual is in public space. Here I will argue that this is a vital role because it is the only way to create feelings of resonance and connectedness amongst larger groups of people. The pandemic prohibits these rituals, so we need to ask further: Does the pandemic lead to new forms of being together? This is closely linked to the accelerated development of technology. The more precise question is: Does technology afford new forms of embodiment? My aim is to introduce ideas of philosophical posthumanism to think in a productive way about incorporating technology in order to satisfy human needs for contact and resonance.


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