Shame in the Clash of Two “Normals”: The Case of Covid-19 in Tasmania
Keywords:shame, fear, normality, Covid-9, Tasmania
This paper deals with the general question of what a segment of sociocultural reality in the capital of Tasmania looked like over the time span from the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in China up to Australia's lockdown in mid-March 2020, or more specifically, what took place in direct, daily contacts between people, in the meeting or clash of coexisting incongruous behavioral norms – the “old” (habitual up until then) and the “new” (modified due to the crisis) patterns of interpersonal behavior. In this period of health and social crises, which is here termed liminal, shame was generated. It arose as an emotional reaction to the discrepancy between the thinking, feeling and behavior of interviewees and the thinking, feeling and behavior of members of their social environment, a discrepancy that became apparent in the course of their mutual interactions and whose object was a different emotion – fear. The fieldwork was conducted in mid-2020 in Hobart, in the form of semi-structured interviews with several immigrants from the states of the former Yugoslavia. As it was aimed at studying their fear, and only in second place their feeling of shame, in this paper I have limited myself to a narrative interpretation of the origins and object of shame, with the intention of, on the one hand, highlighting the principal factors in the construction of shame and, on the other, examining what it was in connection with fear that aroused shame in the given context. It was noted that, among other things, shame was culturally generated in the given interactions which occurred within secondary relationships and specific environmental contexts and, still more broadly, as part of the crisis caused by the general spread of the virus, and that, as the object of shame, fear emerged as an inappropriate emotion, initially in the sense of the disproportion between the intensity of fear and its object (i.e. the threat posed by the virus).
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