In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • 2020 Keywords Symposium
  • Jennifer C. Nash (bio), Samantha Pinto (bio), Marisol LeBrón (bio), Monica L. Miller (bio), Ann Cvetkovich (bio), Julie Livingston (bio), Psyche Williams-Forson (bio), Ruha Benjamin (bio), Christina Hanhardt (bio), Harris Solomon (bio), Neelima Navuluri (bio), Charles W. Hargett (bio), Peter S. Kussin (bio), Noémi Tousignant (bio), Joshua Chambers-Letson (bio), Tiana Reid (bio), Miriam Posner (bio), Racquel Gates, Sari Altschuler (bio), Gayle Wald (bio), and Banu Subramaniam (bio)
2020 (Introduction)
Jennifer C. Nash and Samantha Pinto
Marisol LeBrón
Monica L. Miller
COVID Silver Linings
Ann Cvetkovich
Essential Worker
Julie Livingston
Food-in-Place (Shelter-in-Place)
Psyche Williams-Forson
Ruha Benjamin
Mutual Aid
Christina Hanhardt
Harris Solomon, Neelima Navuluri, Charles W. Hargett, Peter S. Kussin
Risk Factor
Noémi Tousignant
Social Distancing
Joshua Chambers-Letson
Stay at Home
Tiana Reid
Supply Chain Management
Miriam Posner
Racquel Gates
Wave/Forest Fire
Sari Altschuler
Gayle Wald
Zoonosis (Virus)
Banu Subramaniam

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Jennifer C. Nash and Samantha Pinto

Academic projects are often born from desire. When we began the project of collecting these essays—effectively archiving the present—it was an act of imagining a future when we would look back on 2020. Perhaps this collection—with its snapshot of a horrifying present now past—would offer us one way of remembering how everything about daily life was upended. The promise, always, was that by the time this came to be in print, COVID-19 would be something we needed to remember rather than still part of the ongoing present.

Our method was to build a glossary of COVID-19 neologisms, and to come to terms with how 2020 is now its own keyword. This symposium represents the radical and acute—and ongoing—challenges of the pandemic; collapsing social structures that are affecting women, parents, and the economically disenfranchised; the exhaustion of years of unchecked and unbridled White Supremacy in health care, law enforcement, housing, and employment; the contentious election and the Trump administration's refusal to concede. It represents disparate responses to the realities of the "stay at home" orders that started proliferating in the US in March and April of 2020. Essential workers—disproportionately Black and Brown—were ordered to continue working, while others began "panic baking" and "panic shopping" (the disappearance of flour, yeast, and toilet paper from grocery stores marked the first quarter of the year).1 While some buried their dead in anguish and isolation,2 others purchased real estate, thanks to record-low interest rates and new demands for more space as houses were transformed into offices and schools.3 In some ways, this is a quintessentially American story—the variety of ways that crisis is experienced and inhabited, with the starkest and most deathly outcomes reserved for those most precarious as the capitalist machine keeps rolling along.

Terms like "the new normal," and the 2020 OED word of the year, "unprecedented,"4 now pepper our collective consciousness as we describe the dizzying changes that 2020 ushered in, and the new endurances it demands of some, as well as the old intractable inequities it brought to the public surface. If the physical and structural shifts were massive and visible in scale, so was the vocabulary introduced to mark these changes, much of it quickly absorbed and normalized. The spring of 2020 called us to "flatten the curve" through social distancing, the summer of 2020 warned us about a "second wave," and the fall and winter of 2020 ushered in discussions about vaccines, immunity, antibodies, and the need to endure the "COVID winter." Bleeding into 2021, crisis and critique have merged into a lexicon that [End Page 125] is repeated, rehearsed, rehashed, remade.5 These terms have become part of a collective vocabulary, a shared index for describing the relentless conditions of the present, even as that present is experienced and endured differently. If we were to continue to build this glossary, we might include terms like Delta, variants, boosters, vaccine mandates, breakthrough infections, and, of course, "the long 2020."

In this "long 2020" marked...