Isolation and Acts of Resistance in Immigrant Rights Movements

By Alfonso Roca Suárez (Department of Spanish & Portuguese)

In 2020, Oxford Languages adopted a corpus analysis-based approach to do justice to the linguistic complexity used to talk about the main events of the year. The change in strategy came after realizing that it would not be adequate to reduce the intricacy of those events—which will surely leave its stamp on the memory of the generations to come—to the usual word-of-the-year style. This time, it seemed better to talk of “Words of an Unprecedented Year.” Yet despite increasing the number of items, many of the words in this corpus clearly clustered around the theme of the pandemic: “quarantine,” “distancing,” “self-isolate,” “lockdown,” “stay-at-home,” and “isolation.”

When the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency in January of 2020, isolation became the most effective way to protect the population against the proliferation of the deadly virus. In the United States, California became the first state to issue a stay-at-home order, restricting all movement that was not deemed to be “essential.” By the time the state of Ohio was about to put into effect its own order mandating its residents to remain at home, new concerns about the toll that social isolation might have on mental health began to emerge among public officials, journalists, scientist, and the general population. But regardless of how “unprecedented” the events of 2020 were, the defensive measures that were taken and the cost they carry were not entirely novel, as illustrated by a news story that appeared on the The Columbus Dispatch: “Coronavirus: Isolation nothing new for immigrant Edith Espinal after 2 1/2 years in sanctuary at Ohio church.”

Continue reading