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06 April 2020

New Arts & Humanities projects at the forefront of COVID-19 response

As coronavirus continues to affect the world, experts in Arts & Humanities are at the forefront of pioneering research. Exploring the power of language, the need for creative toolkits, and its impact on religious principles, cultures of care and online engagement, our projects advance public knowledge about COVID-19.


A key strength of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities is our ability to meet the challenges of today conceptually, historically and imaginatively. By working across disciplines, our experts and colleagues are discovering innovative ways to engage with and respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Through our newly commissioned projects and academic research, our experts are addressing the most pressing issues being faced in the world today.

Worldmaking in the Time of COVID-19

Awarded money from the King’s Together Coronavirus Rapid Response Fund, the Worldmaking in the Time of COVID-19 project is being led by Professor Catherine Boyle of the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies and Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded Language Acts & Worldmaking project.

The project investigates the ways in which COVID-19 has been narrated across the world. It seeks, through studying key terms in several languages, to contribute to the understanding of the cultural and geopolitical significance of Coronavirus. How do the terms we hear in the UK – around, for example, the concepts of war, contagion, invasion, isolation, community – compare and relate to those that might circulate and form meaning in other cultures? What can we learn from this? The project will employ the skills of Modern Languages and Digital Humanities to ask how we use language to shape the world around us in times of crisis.

The Experience Economy in the Time of COVID-19 

Another beneficiary of the King's Together fund is The Experience Economy in the Time of COVID-19, led by Dr Stephanie Janes, with other academics from the Faculty, as well as other institutes, joining the team. Together, they will research and deliver alternative cultural experiences for vulnerable audiences to maintain access to arts and culture amid the global shutdown of an unprecedented number of cultural institutions. During the crisis, it has never been more crucial to preserve access to arts and culture, and find ways remotely to promote their associated empathy, intimacy, emotion, creativity and closeness. The project will not only respond to the current crisis but will also address broader questions concerning access in the cultural sector.

#CORONASPEAK - the language of COVID-19 goes viral

Tony Thorne, a Visiting Consultant in the Modern Language Centre at King’s and leading specialist in contemporary slang, also studies the impact of the pandemic on language. In his blog, he reveals how phrases typically employed in sociology and psychology such as social-distancing are undergoing shifts in meaning and usage, while more technical words such as ventilation, respiratory and PPE are becoming a part of the everyday conversation as ordinary people make sense of and adapt to new circumstances under lockdown.

Digital Cultures of #COVID19

How are people engaging with and responding to COVID-19 on the web, online platforms and other digital spaces? How can journalists and researchers collaborate and learn from each other to tell stories about the role of digital technology in times of lockdown? Dr Jonathan Gray and Dr Liliana Bounegru in the Department of Digital Humanities are working together with the Public Data Lab, the Digital Methods InitiativeDensityDesign Lab and journalists and media organisations at the First Draft Coalition to co-develop digital methods to investigate what the WHO has called an “infodemic” of misinformation associated with COVID-19, as well as other online cultures and practices which respond to the crisis. This builds on approaches from new media studies and science and technology studies, as well as previous collaborations such as the Field Guide to “Fake News”.

The #CovidCreativesToolkit

Also in Digital Humanities, Dr Kat Braybrooke is a Visiting Researcher who has curated the #CovidCreativesToolkit in collaboration with over 30 other curators from around the world across arts, technology and cultural sectors. This toolkit offers a set of open, free and remixable resources, ideas and pathways for creative practitioners (from artists and makers to musicians and educators) who find themselves having to go digital due to social distancing. As the pandemic transforms every aspect of their lives and working conditions, the kit’s seven sections support the many aspects of this transition, from digital organising tools to digital well-being. The toolkit continues to be updated through ongoing conversations on Twitter, and further contributions are invited. 

 (Aug 2022 - Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies is now the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures). 

 © Photo by #CovidCreativesToolkit
© Photo by #CovidCreativesToolkit

The Corona Fatwas

Dr Carool Kersten, Reader in the Study of Islam & the Muslim World in the Department of Theology & Religious Studies, investigates how during times of uncertainty the faithful in Muslim countries have turned to Islamic religious scholars for reassurance and information. His study looks at how fatwas (legal opinions) informed by historically significant scholars are acting as a source of guidance on religious practice during the global crisis. He has also commented on the impact on sites of pilgrimage and the empty Grand Mosque of Meccausually populated by pilgrims. 

History of Feelings during Intense Contagions

Dr Kelina Gotman is a Reader in Theatre and Performance Studies in the Department of English and specialist in the history of ideas about epidemiology. She is researching the emotional repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic on everyday lives by bringing her attention to the practices of stillness and isolation. She draws on the Greco-Roman practices of the self and suggests that coming to terms with the peaceful work of ‘being alone with ourselves’ can allow us to live more deeply. While the current crisis offers a threat to mental and physical health, she explores how it also provides hopeful opportunities to engage in care and knowledge of the self, driving men and women to access a more profound sense of community, continuity and contact.

Arts & Humanities responding to COVID-19 in the Media


© Photo by Getty Images (Canva)
© Photo by Getty Images (Canva)

Others in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities at King’s have been featured in the media providing expert comment on COVID-19 and its impact through radio, print, online news and television appearances: