Press Release, 07/01/2020

3 months, 19 participants, 28 issues, 260 pages: the was the "Coronavirus Logbook, through the lens of the humanities”

A chronicle of the crisis – now available in its entirety on L.I.S.A., the Gerda Henkel Foundation’s science portal

"Crisis is democracy’s mode of existence. This does not mean that things always go well. However, many diagnoses overlook that the current situation is by no means as new and monstrous as political scientists would like to believe." (Prof. Hedwig Richter, in “Coronavirus Logbook”, 29 April 2020)

"What is new is the degree of deceleration in public life – that is unprecedented in all of Modernity. There are recordings of the Berlin Philharmonic and you can hear the artillery fire in the background – they simply continued to play. Today, the philharmonic hall is empty." (Prof. Andreas Rödder, in “Coronavirus Logbook”, 2 June 2020)

How have members of the humanities viewed and interpreted the Coronavirus crisis since the outbreak of the pandemic? What questions did they find important? What insights from their own specialist fields did they rely on when trying to understand the latest developments? In our "Coronavirus Logbook – through the lens of the humanities" over the course of the last three months 19 representatives of history, literary studies, political science, jurisprudence, and the social sciences took a clear stance on it – publicly, swiftly, and on a topic which to this day remains murky in many respects. Their discussions were written down in an edited chat format and posted on an ongoing basis on L.I.S.A., the Gerda Henkel Foundation’s science portal. As a result, to date a total of 28 issues of the chat have come out, covering no less than 260 A4 pages – as a contemporary document that can also be used for later research into thinking about the crisis. Completely available as a download from [].

The debate kicked off around the question “Coronavirus crisis: An epochal change?”. And the last issue to date focusses on the Corona App ("Enter the surveillance state…"). In-between researchers have regularly met in virtual space to discuss key players and measures – and also repeatedly to explore the laws motivating certain descriptions: "Are we at war? How to talk about the pandemic?", "Informers or responsible citizens?", "Lockdown or Ease Up?", "Bild-Zeitung vs. the Virologist".

"The Coronavirus Logbook shows how important the lens of the humanities is during the Coronavirus crisis and what the humanities can contribute to its contextualization," co-initiator Prof. Jürgen Zimmerer (Universität Hamburg) says by way of an explanation for the pilot project. "Some things we underestimated, many others we foresaw, and with many things the worry remains that the health and economic consequences are not the only forms of impact and potentially not even the most enduring. Anyone wishing to understand all this needs the humanities. The Coronavirus Logbook shows the shape such an enquiry can take." The Gerda Henkel Foundation’s Georgios Chatzoudis adds: "We wanted to occupy a vacuum. At the beginning the logbook had no competition. Only some time later did statements from the humanities start to pop in blogs and the classical media."

The Project It all started on Twitter. Prof. Jürgen Zimmerer of Universität Hamburg asked the question why hardly any voices from the humanities had made themselves felt on the Cornoavirus crisis and its consequences. Surely, he wrote, there must be a forum where such a debate in the humanities could take off. Georgios Chatzoudis offered the interactive L.I.S.A. science portal as a possible platform where the chat could take place – and there it was soon regularly posted. Members of the humanities were invited to take part in the chat. We managed to bring on board historian Prof. Paul Nolte and art historian Dr. Mahret Ifeoma Kupka to kick off the first few issues. In a second round, we then chatted with archaeologist Dr. Natascha Bagherpour Kashani and historian Prof. Andreas Rödder. Our guests for the third set were sociologist Prof. Paula-Irene Villa Braslavsky and historian Dr. Patrice G. Poutrus. In round four, we debated things with the political scientist Prof. Ulrike Guérot and historian Matthias Krämer. In the persons of Prof. Manuela Boatcă and Prof. Michael Wildt the fifth round was once again made up of a sociologist and a historian. The sixth session saw historian Prof. Hedwig Richter and legal scholar Prof. Matthias Goldmann join the discussion. German studies expert Prof. Andrea Geier and historian Prof. Valentin Groebner expanded the reach of the sixth and seventh rounds. And round eight was joined by Prof. Anne-Rose Meyer, who is a likewise German studies scholar. Another historian and a sinologist then debated things - Prof. Gabriele Metzler and Prof. Felix Wemheuer. Prof. Jürgen Zimmerer and Georgios Chatzoudis took part throughout – and acted as the moderators.

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