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Going back to ‘normal’, post-corona outbreak

We have all had enough of staying indoors and separating ourselves physically from people. We are all waiting for that day when things would all settle and life can go back to ‘normal’ again. What does this mean anthropologically? Jordan Bailey from Saint Louis University has interesting insights to share.
According to Edward Sapir, he says, culture is a “unified and consistent attitude towards life”, a stable attitude that gives us the feeling of normalcy. Whenever there is a drastic change to these cultural values, we adjust ourselves to the new ones by making changes to lead our “normal” lives again. Wearing masks and constantly sanitising our hands are some ways we have done this now. Clifford Geertz, an American anthropologist, saw culture as a set of traits that needed to be interpreted according to the context. With a changed context today, we become more alarmed right now when we see people walking outside or when there are many cars on the road. The same thing would have been treated as ‘normal’ had it happened, say, about seven months ago.
All of this is bringing forward one central question – what is normal? What is this ‘normal’ that we had confined ourselves to and we want to be restored? Bailey notes how “being at peace” is most of our definition of ‘normal’. As the days of the pandemic progress, one thing that has been widely accepted is that we no longer can afford to sit back and wait for things to go back to ‘normal’. The only possible option in front of us is the keep the show going, whatever the global crisis we may be in. If we choose to simply wait for things to sort themselves out, all we would witness is the situation worsening as it becomes ‘normalised’ in the process.
N Malavika Mohan