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Illustration: Science and Research Photo (detail): © Eric McLean

Science and Research

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the relationship between science and politics and elevated the social standing of scientists and researchers in the Global North. Researchers in various disciplines are helping us grasp the complexities of the pandemic: How does the virus spread? How does a vaccine help? How does the pandemic exacerbate social inequalities? How does it affect climate change? The Goethe-Institut Brussels and its partners will be holding a series of events zeroing in on the urgent present-day and post-pandemic issues: society, social inequality and climate change.

Findings in virology and epidemiology have hugely influenced policymaking in many regions of the world. While statistics and projections of the virus’s spread dominated the European discourse about the pandemic for a long time, Europeans are now increasingly listening to what social scientists, humanists and psychologists have to say about the COVID-19 crisis. As divergent as their approaches and views may be, they are all part of an ongoing and omnipresent assessment of the effects of the crisis on our society. In the module Science and Research, the Goethe-Institut Brussels and its partners ask scientists and researchers as well as artists and activists, how the pandemic and the attendant crisis have changed society(ies) and what positive and negative effects they’ve had on various social groups. Which also raises questions about the future: How do we want to live from now on? Is this crisis an opportunity for us to consider and create utopias? 

Science and its relation to art and culture

Actors in the arts and culture scene are increasingly collaborating with scientists and researchers to provide discursive and aesthetic input for the debate about the present and future of society. This productive dialogue between the cultural sector and researchers from various disciplines will be nurtured and presented to the public by a series of events put together by the Goethe-Institut Brussels. Therewith it aims to go beyond individual expertise and draw collective lessons from the pandemic by identifying social challenges and developing visions of the future. With this in mind, the Goethe-Institut Brussels in association with the Literaturhaus Berlin invited to their event Market for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge in the framework of the Festival of Cooperations in September 2021.

Combatting social inequalities

Research findings and everyday experiences show that the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities between genders, classes, ethnicities and occupations, and between the Global North and South. While industrialised countries argue over how to divvy up vaccines, many nations in the Global South are more or less excluded from the distribution. Moreover, women are generally hit much harder by the effects of the pandemic on everyday life, which raises the question of who will be in charge of the care duties at home in this period of school closures, lockdowns and working from home. How are various societies coping with this consequence of the COVID pandemic? How can they redress the gender imbalance? What solutions are proposed in the public debate? Experts and the audience discussed these questions in depth at the Market for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge at the Literaturhaus Berlin. The questions raised will also be taken into the follow-up events to continuously reflect.

Climate change and a changing relationship to the environment

Despite lockdowns and restricted global mobility, climate change is steadily and relentlessly progressing. Many countries are mobilising enormous sums to offset staggering economic losses, but only a small fraction of those amounts to avert the approaching climate catastrophe. So researchers, creatives and activists are constantly developing new strategies to heighten climate awareness and change behaviours sustainably. And yet, the Goethe-Institut Brussels is wondering whether its perspectives are too Eurocentric and whether the pandemic has caused the focus to narrow even further to individual Member-State solutions. Climate change is a global problem. In collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Glasgow and the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, we show the online video series Transformations for the World Climate Conference in November 2021. In individual episodes, mainly non-European scientists, activists and artists will be heard and present their views and projects.

This will be followed in December 2021 by our art weekend Constellations for futures. Stories on ecology, kinship and science at La Loge in Brussels. In discussions, lecture performances, film screenings and artistic presentations, scientists and artists will be given a space to reflect. In their artworks and scientific lectures, they can articulate statements and visions in order to set a process of social change in motion with the aim to progressively shape the future together


Festival of Cooperations