Dr Adrienne Yong & Dr Sabrina Germain, City Law School

Beyond the Virus book cover

Originally published on the Social & Legal Studies blog

In late 2020, after the world had endured several lockdowns due to the unprecedented spread of a novel deadly virus, COVID-19 was front and centre in the minds of many academics. Importantly, this was not limited to just those in the medical profession, nor just those interested in biomedical sciences. The pandemic and its effects were of academic interest to most disciplines, including law, politics and other social sciences. As sociolegal scholars with an interest in justice in healthcare (Germain) and immigration and intersectionality (Yong), the pandemic piqued our curiosity because of its impact on widening existing inequalities for some of the most vulnerable in society in range of different areas. With a burning desire to publish an edited collection that would be an important contribution to a burgeoning area of literature, we set off to harness the expertise of a wider group of authors, doing cutting edge work in areas that were not just about the medical effects of the virus itself.

It was evident to us, living in London, that there were severe consequences stemming from the measures in place to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus which were producing pervasive inequalities in daily life. During this time, the death of George Floyd in the US, which had sparked protests across the globe, was also salient, and forced us to reflect as women of colour. Some inequalities that were brought to our attention existed before the pandemic, some were created from the pandemic – but all were exacerbated by the pandemic. Beyond the virus, we could see areas where there was greater need for further research, but which we ourselves did not have expertise in. Having already penned our own paper on inequalities in access to healthcare for ethnic minority and migrant women – bringing together both our expertise – we sought to expand on our initial intentions behind this paper and delve deeper into inequalities brought about by the pandemic, not just limited to the UK, but globally, and not just about law and policy, but in multiple disciplines.

Bristol University Press were launching its series on Bristol Studies in Law & Social Justice, and we were honoured to be the first title in the series with our edited collection. The mission of social justice through law and other disciplines was indeed what our collection sought to encourage in its careful choice of scholars from various jurisdictions, of a variety of disciplines, and at different career stages in the academy itself. We felt that a collection focusing on inequalities of vulnerable and marginalised communities had to itself be inclusive and diverse. It was also important that the collection be diverse in terms of international jurisdiction, and we endeavoured to include scholars from the Global South and Global North. In many cases, authors spoke to issues like gender, race, ethnicity and other forms of discrimination in countries where these have become issues.

Our edited collection is aptly titled Beyond the Virus, as it covers three interrelated themes going well beyond the medical aspects of the virus itself. The first is Power and Governance, speaking to the power wielded by states to control the virus, often through laws (but not exclusively). Chapters by a political scientist on the UK (Blunt), by legal scholars on Israel (Gilbar & Karako-Eyal) and an interdisciplinary group of Canadian scholars, including legal and medical science scholars on Quebec (Couture-Ménard, Bernier, Breton & Ménard) featured to highlight where the law’s power has inadvertently disadvantaged and deepened social inequalities.

The second, Gender, saw two chapters marking two situations in the UK where gender may not have necessarily been an obvious issue at the outset. Experts in politics and media and culture (Cardo & Boelle) and an interdisciplinary group of legal academics and social scientists (Finch, Halliday, Meers, Tomlinson & Wilberforce) covered how in the UK, the communication of rules and regulations, as well as actually complying with the rules, had a gendered aspect – one that entrenched gender inequalities even further.

The third on Marginalized Communities covers three jurisdictions – South Korea (Baek), Brazil (Pires de Vasconcelos) and Canada (Chen) – and a diversity of issues in these different parts of the world. All three, written by legal scholars, the juxtaposition of the problems faced by developed nations during the pandemic versus the struggles of a developing nation are stark. From privacy and tracking, to healthcare for prisoners, to essential workers protection, it hammered the message home of the diversity of issues that the pandemic raised.

It was our hope that this edited collection would shed some light on what we felt were important issues, so that we could contribute towards social justice in some ways. Our intention was to give a platform to voices and issues that might not be the centre of attention during what is primarily perceived as a global health emergency. Looking at how power is used, how gender inequalities are deepened, and how marginalised communities are treated all during this novel global pandemic was to bring attention to the fact that there are consequences of a global health emergency beyond just the statistics that we saw across the globe of test numbers, hospitalisations, infections and deaths.

Dr Germain and Dr Yong’s edited collection, Beyond the Virus – Multidisciplinary and International Perspectives on Inequalities Raised by COVID-19 was published by Bristol University Press in 2023 under the Bristol Studies in Law & Social Justice series.

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 About the authors

Dr Adrienne Yong is a Senior Lecturer in Law at The City Law School under the Institute for the Study of European Laws (ISEL). Dr Yong’s research interests are in EU citizenship, immigration law and human rights of marginalised groups from an intersectional feminist perspective. Her recent research primarily focuses on the intersectional impact of gender and immigrant status on women’s rights. She has considered the effect of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and how the EU Settlement Scheme disproportionately affects vulnerable immigrant women. She continues to examine how the new immigration landscape affects vulnerable women at risk of or experiencing violence against women and girls. She can be found on LinkedIn.

 Dr Sabrina Germain is a Reader in Healthcare Law and Policy and the Associate Dean for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the City Law School. She is a member of City University’s Centre for Healthcare Innovation Research (CHIR). She is also a Trustee on the Socio-Legal Studies Association’s (SLSA) board. Dr Germain’s research interests are in the field of healthcare law and policy. She focuses on questions of distributive justice (resource allocation and inequalities in accessing to healthcare services particularly the challenges faced by racialised communities) and the role of medical professionals in the healthcare law making process. She tweets at @sabrinakgermain and can be found on LinkedIn.