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Manuscript deadline
30 September 2020

Cover image - Politikon


Special Issue Editor(s)

Siphamandla Zondi, University of Pretoria, South Africa
[email protected]

Kenneth Ombongi, OGW, University of Nairobi, Kenya

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COVID-19, Politics and International Relations: Hopes and Impediments

The novel coronavirus pandemic popularly referred to as COVID-19 took the world by storm in January 2020 and things fell apart, bringing the entire world to a standstill, as countries affected, both developed and developing, resorted to national lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus. Governments were pushed into crisis management mode as they strove to maintain a delicate balance between saving lives and livelihoods, as well as the urgent need to prepare for post-COVID-19 economic and social recovery. Depending on the occurrence, experience and peak of the pandemic, different countries have started easing lockdowns and opening up their economies to recover lost grounds. However, destructive as COVID-19 has been so far in terms of death rates, its social, economic and political impacts, it has also thrown up opportunities for change and hopes for better futures given the situational ironies and contradictions it presents and highlights.

Contradictions in national politics, state, society and inter-communal dynamics within countries may have been sharpened. In some cases, exemplary political and state leadership have been seen, but in others the depth of the governance decay and leadership crisis have also become more visible. The approaches of democracies and non-democracies, liberal and social democracies in the fight against COVID-19  have been complicated, sometimes similar and sometimes different in ways not known before, highlighting the need to rethink these political systems. We have seen a boost of nationalism, even ultra-nationalism, occurring potentially at the expense of regional and global multilateralism as seen in attacks on the World Health Organisation by some powerful actors. But we have also seen a spirit of globalism in how supplies of essential personal protective equipment and knowledge sharing on COVID-19 mitigation have occurred between countries and regions. Multilateral institutions including the UN and its agencies have been thrust into the limelight with varying implications for their image and future roles. Regional organisations such as the AU, EU, BRICS, G20 and G7 have battled to maintain their relevance as conduits for global policy responses to collective threats to human wellbeing.

Ideas and attitudes to and about society have also been impacted with ironic effects. Racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism and ageism have resurged. Dialogues about longstanding fault lines of global capitalism and neoliberal globalisation have risen, highlighting the vulnerability of particular sections of society to the pandemic. Some of the most vulnerable structurally are also at the receiving end of cruel state enforcement of lockdown regulations in various countries. Discussions about local governance, citizen agency, the role of social movements and civil society formations, the culpability of public intellectuals and science, have also spread. Sustainable livelihoods and the resilience of society to withstand future shocks are being debated. The question of technology, science and innovation have been raised in various ways including the utility of these technologies in enabling effective responses to the crisis, assisting post-COVID-19 recovery and reimaging the ‘new normal’ of the future. As a result, public policy is being redefined in many ways, giving Chinua Achebe’s “Hopes and Impediments” phrase a fresh meaning in the context of things falling apart.

We invite critical reflections, debates and analyses in feature articles, research notes and commentaries that seek to interpret any of the elements of this complex interplay of the COVID-19 pandemic, politics and international relations. We also welcome transdisciplinary contributions that intersect with the political, social, cultural, economic and political-economic questions brought to the fore by the COVID-19 pandemic currently in motion. Amongst others, contributions that cover the following sub-themes  are welcome:

  • State leadership and governance of COVID-19 responses
  • Rethinking liberal democracy and the political economy of public health
  • Revisiting authoritarianism and the public good
  • New social compacts/contracts between states and citizens
  • The role of the private sector and Africapitalism in post-COVID-19 African economies
  • The role civil society, media, communications, and public deliberation
  • New technologies, digitalisation and human rights in a post-COVID-19 world
  • Impact on attitudes, gender relations, cultures, and religion
  • Post-COVID-19 World Order and global leadership
  • International and regional cooperation
  • Opportunities for non-Western and global International Relations Theory(s)
  • Any other COVID-19 related issue that presents new opportunities for better futures

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Submission Instructions

All submissions should be sent to [email protected]. Contributors are urged to follow the author guidelines and reference style of the journal which is available below.

Completed papers should be submitted no later than 30 September 2020 to get a chance of being processed for the special issue scheduled for publication in January 2021. Submission of abstract: 17 July 2020 Submission of full paper: 30 September 2020

Instructions for Authors