First Looks on Covid-19–cfp

Call for Submissions: First Looks on Covid-19

In 2021, as scholars caught medias reis in their writings about pandemics, Michael Berry and Bishnupriya Ghosh launched a project, “First Looks,” for constellating critical and creative works on the COVID-19 experience. The premise of the project was to constellate “field notes” on the pandemic for (an online portal of positions) on a rolling basis. Two years later, even as we mark the second anniversary of the March 2020 lockdowns and there are whispers of post-pandemic times, COVID-19 continues to emerge. In short, we remain in the eye of the storm: we characterize this “period” as the COVID-19 “interregnum,” so to speak, a gap or discontinuity with existing orders. “First Looks” attempts to capture the unsettlement of the period to ask: can the irresolution, the waiting, the vanishing certitudes of the interregnum be productive? In this spirit, we invite scholarly and creative “notes” on the pandemic as form anterior to settled argument.

We are inspired by the many short-form writings on the pandemic and artworks over the last two years scattered across media platforms. The preliminary, unfinished, and evolving nature of “notes,” as records of qualitative observations, we argue, makes them especially fitting for knowledge making in the interregnum. The special forum develops “Notes” as a dispersive form of observation drawing on scholarship on this form from disciplines as various as biology, anthropology, and archaeology. In one famous articulation, field notes are admixtures of inscription (observations jotted down in the order remembered), transcription (noting already formulated discourse), and description (representation of observed reality) [James Clifford, 1990]; in others, variants of field notes (from scratch notes to head notes), their relation to journals (as methodical chronology) and diaries (as personal, reflective notations. Field notes are deeply concrete in relying on the senses; they are flexible in form; and they articulate local/particular with institutional/academic modes of knowledge. Still more relevant to the pandemic are “notes from the field” that report epidemic findings: for example, the reports on the novel coronavirus in the Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Reports (MMWR) beginning in February 5, 2020. These two critical genealogies of “field notes” or “notes from the field” from ethnography and epidemiology are obviously different in scope and audience; yet the notes in both instances remain qualitatively emergent and provisional. For further elaboration on this form of media-making, see:

We invite scholars and artists to present their notes on the COVID-19 crisis-event around the globe. As is to be expected in our times, notes are multimodal and obtain across media platforms: so, we invite writing (3000-word entries) and other forms of creative note-making in photography, installations, performance, or video. Please contact Michael Berry ( or Bishnu Ghosh ( if you are interested in submitting a piece. The portal has the capacity to host text, image, and voice and will work with you on your entry.

Michael Berry <>

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