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Vol. 8 No. 3: September issue

'Stay Home, Stay Safe': Proximity as Vitality and Vulnerability Under Lockdown

May 28, 2020


From March to May 2020 in the UK, measures that became known across the world as ‘lockdown’ curtailed personal freedoms in order to curb the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus. While initial criticisms of lockdown focused on the adverse impacts of social isolation on wellbeing, this research article explores how lockdown creates new and altered proximities and intimacies as well as distances. During the initial UK lockdown, the ‘household’ and ‘home’ were deployed in public rhetoric as default spaces of care and security in the face of widespread isolation and uncertainty. However, emergent proximities created by bringing people together in the assumed safety of home also deepened existing inequalities and vulnerabilities. Using anthropological theory, third sector evidence, and ethnographic interview data we explore this process. We argue that understanding proximity and intimacy as fundamentally ambivalent, not normatively affirming, is central to recognising how pandemic responses such as lockdown reinforce and reproduce existing forms of inequality and violence.