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Confronting pandemics: human and non-human agents in the discourse of the Moscow authorities on COVID-19

Research Article

Yana A. Bagina
Independent Researcher, Moscow, Russia
ybagina@hse.ru
ORCID ID=0000-0002-4376-9288
Oksana N. Zaporozhets Candidate of Sociology
National Research University “Higher School of Economics”, Moscow, Russia
ozaporozhets@hse.ru
ORCID ID=0000-0001-7301-0128
Anastasia D. Govorova
Institute of Sociology of FCTAS RAS, Moscow, Russia
nastena_govorova@mail.ru
ORCID ID=0000-0001-6411-2202
Confronting pandemics: human and non-human agents in the discourse of the Moscow authorities on COVID-19.
Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2022. Vol. 13. No. 4. P. 217-235

The reported study was funded by RFBR, project No. 20-04-60535.

Дата поступления статьи: 22.08.2022
Topic: The Social Consequences of the Pandemic: Latest Research

For citation:
Bagina Y. A., Zaporozhets O. N., Govorova A. D. Confronting pandemics: human and non-human agents in the discourse of the Moscow authorities on COVID-19. Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2022. Vol. 13. No. 4. P. 217-235
DOI: https://doi.org/10.19181/vis.2022.13.4.857. EDN: LAGHSG




Abstract

The article is devoted to the discourse of the Moscow city authorities regarding COVID-19. We believe that this discourse is closely connected with the implemented city policies, articulating and legitimising them. The empirical base of the study is news from the official website of the Mayor of Moscow and entries from the blog of the Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin. The article focuses on discursively created agents of urban life, the attitude of city authorities towards them and the relationship between them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are many human and non-human agents in the coronavirus discourse: government officials, townspeople, agents associated with the treatment of coronavirus (medical workers and technologies), and agents associated with the life of the city during the pandemic (infrastructure, organisations and companies, employers, education system). All of them are built around a key agent - the virus itself. Citizens as agents in power discourse are represented by a variety of categories that form two large overlapping groups. The first group is associated with the position of people regarding the disease: people with suspected coronavirus, who fell ill with varying degrees of severity of the disease, recovered, died; donors, vaccine study participants, vaccinated. Over the analysed time period, the discourse related to morbidity undergoes at least two turning points: the transition from a small number of cases to statistics disaggregated in terms of age, and from disaggregated statistics to the total number of cases with an emphasis on the number of severe cases of the disease. The second group of categories of citizens includes belonging to certain social groups, for example, an age cohort, socially vulnerable groups, workers (in general and in certain industries), schoolchildren and students, service users, public transport passengers.

Citizens are viewed by city officials as important agents involved in the fight against the pandemic. Their agency is discursively produced as a result of the interaction between themselves and the city authorities. Citizens who follow the authority rules gain agency, while those who do not follow them are deprived of it due to rare mention or omission.

Keywords

discourse, COVID-19, virus, city, citizens, city authorities

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