The representation of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown in Italy: A psychosocial research by SPS, Studio di Psicosociologia of Rome

SPS Studio di Psicosociologia di Roma


At the end of February 2020, in SPS we asked ourselves what were the experiences evoked by the Covid-19 pandemic in its debut, and what facts “derived” from these experiences. To this end, we interviewed 419 people, between 1 March and 5 May 2020. The collected corpus was analyzed through the Emotional Text Analysis (AET). It was assumed that the pandemic had deconstructed the usual ways of relating, and we thought that new relational dimensions were emerging. Our data show that habitual individualism, of greedy competitiveness, is in crisis. A new individualism has emerged in response to the deconstruction of the friend/foe relational schema, at the basis of sociality. The representation of the danger inherent in the pandemic contagion has made us all potentially enemies of each other. We have all lived as potentially enemies of all, unless we are admittedly sick. The sick, on the other hand, are not experienced as enemies: they are a split otherness, relegated to an elsewhere far from those who are “healthy”. During the lockdown, treatments were confined to the hospital, characterized by isolation, emergency, death experienced in the worst way. The otherness was reified in a hospital that became symptomatic of the failure of the health system. A “we” has formed here together, healthy and maniacally happy, and a “them” infected, damned, isolated and “elsewhere”. The Internet, by allowing contactless proximity, has become a new context of sociality. It has allowed us to become human again, or friends, unless proven otherwise. But the new friendship is based on the split from the damned other: the sick/caring couple, and all those excluded, for various reasons, from the protection of the lockdown. The experience of being closed at home with the usual cohabitants is also excluded from the new sociality, where the violence of forced family relationships emerges. There are others excluded from a maniacally friendly us: the elderly who do not use the internet and who most of all risk dying. There is also a culture that, within the failure of habitual social relations, underlines the powerlessness of institutions (political, health, media, etc.) in the pandemic contingency. Finally, there is a pre-lockdown culture, made up of fear that will lead to choose isolation. In the data, the productive world is missing, which for those interviewed by the research did not find - in the period of time we considered - a shared emotional code that could be gathered in a cluster. The research also had an intervention objective: to create a context in which the pandemic event could be interpreted, within a setting of participation. In addition to publishing the data quickly, we intend to promote discussion groups on the internet with participants. Furthermore, this is the main reason for the high number of Authors.


models of individualism; local culture; friend-foe scheme; coexistence in the pandemic; crisis in the health system

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