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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access May 24, 2021

Necrosecurity, Immunosupremacy, and Survivorship in the Political Imagination of COVID-19

Martha Lincoln

Abstract

The neologism ‘necrosecurity’ describes the cultural idea that mass death among less grievable subjects plays an essential role in maintaining social welfare and public order. In the early months of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the United States, this perspective on the social value of death emerged in diverse contexts, particularly in claims that deaths were a necessary consequence of returning economies to normal. Necrosecurity discourse encourages audiences to perceive coronavirus fatalities as neither preventable nor exceptional, and to perceive themselves as facing little risk of infection or death. Overlooking the realities of infectious disease epidemiology, these accounts portrayed COVID-19 as a mild disease and imagined a population of robust and physically normative individuals who would survive an epidemic unscathed and ready to return to work. These appeals articulate with powerful cultural tropes of survivorship, in which statistical calculations of relative risk and life chances—ostensibly cited to inspire hope for an individual outcome—conceal a zero-sum calculus in which ill or susceptible individuals are pitted against one another. In contrast to the construct of biosecurity—the securing of collective life against risk—necrosecurity paradoxically imagines the deaths of vulnerable others as a means of managing shared existential dangers.

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Received: 2020-07-06
Accepted: 2021-02-19
Published Online: 2021-05-24

© 2021 Martha Lincoln, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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