About this Research Topic
This Research Topic looks at how the restrictions put in place to protect the public from the spread of COVID-19, as well as the changes in policing and enforcement of lockdowns across the world have impacted the extent to - and ways in which citizens participate in politically-relevant activities and actions.
The years 2020 and 2021 have seen a fundamental disruption to the ‘normal’ way of life of citizens around the world. Many countries have responded to the COVID-19 emergency by imposing restrictions to the citizens’ ability to assemble and partake in protests and political action. Further, changes in policing regulations aimed at granting law enforcement officers the ability to police the public’s adherence to public health regulations have had significant impact on the ability and freedom of citizens to gather and assert their political opinions and hold governments accountable.
At the same time, however, this period has seen a flurry of politically relevant events and movements across the world. From the BLM movement sparked by the killing of George Floyd in the US, to environmental movements such as Extinction Rebellion demanding action on climate change, to the political struggles in Hong Kong, India, Myanmar, Colombia, Chile, Turkey, among others. Further, scholars have suggested that COVID-19 has magnified existing social injustices, with disadvantaged groups in society (and disadvantaged countries) suffering adverse consequences due to the imposition of regulation.
On the one hand, the increased reliance on the internet and social media to keep up to date and maintain existing social connections might have increased people’s awareness of these political issues. This might have fostered interest and willingness to participate in movements supporting causes citizens feel strongly about. The ability to interact with other like-minded people online might have empowered citizens in taking political action, both online and offline. On the other, the drive to participate in demonstrations and protest contrasted with new regulations, have limited the ability – and willingness - of individuals to gather and make their voices heard. This is particularly important when considering that access to online forms of participation is restricted in some countries via state control, and limited in access within different levels of digital literacy, sectors of society and geographical areas (e.g. digital divide). This can result in a sense of learned helplessness, where citizens feel unable to hold those in power to account.
In this issue we will explore theoretical and empirical perspectives on the impact the pandemic has had on the type and level of people’s participation in political activity.
We welcome contributions which address the following questions
1. Has the pandemic changed the way in which people think about their role as citizens and the ways in which they can exert their role?
2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of online forms of activism during the pandemic? Is this seen as a lasting change or will we revert to the ‘old ways’?
3. What type of activism has emerged as predominant during the pandemic?
4. How do citizens perceive fellow citizens who engage in activism?
5. What role does mainstream media play in fostering or hindering protest movements during a pandemic? Has it changed? Will it last?
6. How important is accountability for citizens?
7. What are the main theoretical and methodological tools we can use to understand this phenomenon?
Keywords: activism, policing, enforcement, lockdown, regulation, citizens, political participation, COVID-19, restrictions, social media, protest, state control
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.