A little lexicon of the sanitary crisis: what the words mean

1 - " control the progression of the epidemic ".

Wednesday 02 december 2020
Le péri
doors openning 18h00
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The need to control the evolution of the epidemic has imposed the implementation of surveillance techniques, whether in terms of geographical area, duration, etc. We shall return to this term control to try to understand its meaning. We will associate it with the question of “remote gaze” and we will try to show that “controlling” is “watching”, but in a certain way, and that these techniques of “gaze” are real techniques of power.

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.