The Use of Metaphor in Defining the Pandemic Phenomenon


Authors: Giovannipaolo Ferrari and Paolo Diana
Page Range: 265-288
Published in: Current Politics and Economics of Europe, 33#4
ISSN: 1057-2309

Table of Contents


Although pandemics are perceived as scientific and technical problems, their multi-layered political implications trigger an ideology-laden debate. In this paper, we argue that in the face of the upheavals caused by Covid-19, a considerable part of the political and media systems has used narratives rooted in neo-nationalist and neo-liberal ideologies. On the one hand, neo-nationalism is visible through the portrayal of stereotypical « others » in mainstream media. On the other hand, the health emergency has tested and will continue to test institutions and their ability to find and implement solutions that minimise harm without restricting individual freedoms. Those entrusted with the institutional and political responsibility to inform the public once again communicated on the event using the primal rhetorical figures. First in China, then in Italy and Europe, and finally throughout the world, politicians, journalists, doctors, economists and opinion leaders have defined the health emergency as “war”. The metaphor of war has been used and abused from the beginning, and the first and most vocal disseminators of the term « war » and its associated concepts have been politicians. This paper proposes an extension of the concept of Orientalism as a possible key to understanding the construction of stereotypical representations of Covid-19 as the ‘enemy’ and the pandemic as ‘war’ during the lockdown. Furthermore, it is argued that political positions and conflicts over pandemic measures are not random and nor do they depend on the idiosyncrasy of individuals. Rather, they represent certain material interests and socio-cultural and ideological backgrounds.

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