Repo, J., Richter, H.
An evental pandemic: thinking the COVID-19 ‘Event’ with Deleuze and Foucault
As COVID-19 swept the world it also became the subject of a quickly growing body of theoretical scholarship aimed at understanding the social, political and economic implications of the ‘pandemic event’. Taking a step back, this paper draws on Deleuze and Foucault to interrogate whether, and in what way, the COVID-19 pandemic can and should in fact be understood as an event. We first offer a structured overview of existing ‘pandemic theory’ where we highlight that the productivity unfolded by the pandemic event is here either politically or ontologically fixed. Against this background, we show that, in distinct ways, Deleuze’s and Foucault’s concepts of the event caution against reifying a pandemic event. Any political force the pandemic can unfold is always made after the fact, and is contingent on what is (counter-)effectuated from the pandemic, or which discursive dispersions intersect with and unfold from it. We argue for considering the pandemic as evental rather than an event–it is made up of events, and holds the potential to produce events. For critical theory, the significance of the pandemic event is thus in the first place methodological: it gives insight to how (post-)pandemic societies are produced, and where openings for the actualization of alternatives might lie. © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
counter-effectuation; COVID-19; eventualisation; Gilles Deleuze; Michel Foucault