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The Frontline as Performative Frame: An Analysis of the UK COVID Crisis

SCJ 10(2) front cover

State Crime Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2 (2022)

Sara Farris (Goldsmiths University of London), Nira Yuval-Davis (University of East London) and Catherine Rottenberg (University of Nottingham)

In this paper, we examine the multiple significations of the “frontline” metaphor in the UK during the first ten months of COVID-19. We argue that the term “frontline” has operated as a performative frame, which has helped to produce the very notion and the materialization of the “COVID-19 frontline” and keyworkers. Showing how the UK government has repeatedly cited this metaphor, we outline the contradictory effects it has generated through an interplay of hyper-visibility and opaqueness. The frontline metaphor has been used to justify the government’s injection of massive amounts of public money into the economy, render hyper-visible workers who had previously been invisible, whilst generating a sense of civic responsibility. Simultaneously, however, the metaphor has created a smokescreen for corrupt practices, deflecting attention away from resource-starved health and social care infrastructures and intensifying forms of “everyday bordering” and “everyday racism” that deepen structural injustices in the UK… (read more)

State Crime Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2 (2022)