From the European South

a transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities

Unnatural borders: will Covid-19 break time and space?

Melissa Tandiwe Myambo


Battling a lockdown-induced theoretical paralysis, the author attempts an analysis of the central role that spatio-temporal border closures have played in the world since the emergence of Covid-19. Has the coronavirus broken time? Can we declare the time since the onset of the pandemic a new epoch? This heuristic and schematic essay is divided into three parts. The first section draws from Helge Jordheim’s work on Reinhart Koselleck’s theory of temporality in relationship to the periodization of historical eras. If Covid-19 has inaugurated a new era, what do we lose or gain from declaring it so? Narrating this crisis as a temporal break between a before and after accomplishes ideological agendas for both the left and right and is a very dangerous trend. The second section reflects on what has happened to (national) borders since the outbreak of Covid-19, not only the closures but also some of the surprising openings that have taken place. For example, the arch-Brexiteers whose Brexit campaign slogan was “taking back control” of the country’s borders did not, like so many other countries, close their borders in the early days of the pandemic. The last section interrogates whether the eradication of the virus in one enclosed locale is adequate. If it is thriving anywhere on this earth, are any of us safe even if we imagine
that borders can remain sealed forever more? A global pandemic necessitates a global response but global leadership has been woefully lacking.


globalization, deglobalization, periodization, Reinhart Koselleck, spatio-temporality, Southern Africa



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