A little lexicon of the sanitary crisis: what the words mean
Session 2. "Containment as a political instrument of control".
In another way, and associated with the question of control, the question of “containment” very quickly arose. Here again, this term, which has become an action verb – to confine, to de-confine – takes on meanings that it is important to make explicit. Here again, a history of these words will be proposed to better understand how, in these situations of health crisis, the question of confinement becomes political and what it implies from the point of view of the social condition of individuals.
Since the beginning of the health crisis, the vocabulary of politicians – that of governments of course, but also that of scientists, experts and journalists – has expanded and enriched to talk about the epidemic, public health, etc.. This extension and enrichment most often involves the invention of new expressions, the appearance of new meanings for words taken from the common vocabulary. This is the case, for example, with words such as “containment”, “distancing”, “control”, “risk”, “health risk”, “precaution”, etc. These are relatively common terms which, thanks to the crisis and the particular circumstances we have been experiencing since February-March 2020, have taken on new meanings and designate new realities. A whole vocabulary that had been relatively erased until then becomes present and consecrates new ways of saying to designate new ways of dealing with the “real”.
We would like to start from the hypothesis that the exploration of certain elements of this new vocabulary allows us to define the political dimensions of the health and social crisis in a different way. I would like to devote this year’s three interventions to studying some of these words, some of these expressions, to identify their meanings, to spot the inflections of meaning and the socio-political issues that they denote and, more often than not, mask. The history of the words and their uses will also be used to highlight these evolutions.