COVID-19 & the (extra)ordinariness of crisis: lessons from homeless migrants

Charlotte Emily Sanders

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The 16th of March 2020 signalled an abrupt rupture in the rhythms of ordinary life. In the months that have passed since the UK first went into lockdown individuals, families and communities across the country have struggled to remake life in the impasse, navigating the discomforting and unfamiliar feeling of life being suddenly suspended, unpredictable, and precarious. COVID-19 has imbued everyday life with the visceral experience of crisis, a heightened sense of risk to life itself which the seams of the normal cannot hold. It is precisely this ‘unusual’ sense of precarity and of unpredictability, and its juxtaposition to the security and knowability of the ordinary, that renders COVID-19 a crisis event. Put simply, the crisis lies in the extraordinariness of it all. Yet, scholars working across feminist theory, queer theory and necropolitics (Berlant, 2011; Butler, 2006; Mayblin et al., 2019; Mbembe, 2019; Puar, 2017) have increasingly problematised understandings of crises as staccato, temporary, abnormal and spectacular moments of disjuncture from the everyday. Such work has shifted focus away from privileged experiences of time and of ab/normality, showing how thinking from the positions of marginalised individuals and communities underscores that the everyday itself can be a site of crisis – of perpetual crisis as normal (Berlant, 2011). For migrants experiencing homelessness in the UK, I argue, life is always already lived as precarious, unpredictable and suspended. Indeed, in the context of a UK immigration apparatus that is increasingly hostile towards them (JCWI, 2020a; Richmond-Bishop & Bailey, 2020), everyday life for homeless migrants is always already a threat to life itself. How, then, might our conceptualisations of COVID-19 as a crisis work to illuminate these realities, both intellectually and politically?
Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Cultural Analysis and Social Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2020


  • RCUK
  • ESRC
  • ES/V011081/1
  • homeless
  • migrants
  • COVID19
  • crisis
  • ordinariness


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