#6 Power and the Pandemic 2

Parallel sessions on Friday 25.11. at 15.00-16.15
Location: Room 7, Metsätalo

Marjaana Rautalin & Pertti Alasuutari (Tampere University, Faculty of Social Sciences) – Navigating in global discourse: the case of Swedish COVID-19 strategy

Social scientists have been increasingly interested in policy decisions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been argued that as the pandemic spread, governments introduced adjacent policy measures (often on very short notice) with which to mitigate the pandemic and its socio-economic consequences. As to why such herd behavior in policymaking occurred has often been explained by policy mimicry. For instance, the diffusion studies start from the premise that national COVID-19 strategies are guided by globally shared ways of interpreting the novel pandemic and measures available.

When information on the pandemic and its mitigation was limited, governments glanced at other countries, particularly their neighbors, in their attempts to find cues of how to mitigate the pandemic in a rational and hence, efficient way. Consequently, a policy field with rationalistic COVID-19 responses occurred consolidating the interdependence of policies. This theorization is problematic when we look at countries which in the throes of the national COVID-19 crisis ended up in introducing policies that are at odds with those enacted in other countries in the field. Sweden is one such country. In spite of the fact that the novel coronavirus landed in Sweden nearly at the same time as in its neighboring countries, and that the number of national COVID-19 deaths has been high, Sweden opted a corona strategy that involved fewer and looser restrictions than, for example, the ones adopted by its neighboring countries.

In this paper, we argue that the strategy adopted by Sweden is not a deviation of a global field and the rationalistic pandemic responses it advocates. Instead, we argue that Sweden’s strategy was an outcome of a creative usage of a global discourse that spread as the pandemic spread. With our analysis of the Swedish media debate, we itemize the elements of this discourse and show how it has been used (and also collided) when the Swedish COVID-19 strategy was constructed and justified in 2020. With our case study we also seek to add to the existing theories on policy diffusion and interdependent policymaking. We argue that interdependence of policies should not be conceived of as rationalistic policies diffusing in modern world society. Instead, we propose that such interdependence, evident in national COVID-19 policies, is an outcome of a global discourse that evolves as nation-states vindicate their respective policies, giving birth to ever new policy models that become part of the global episteme.

Muhammad Ahsan Qureshi (Tampere University) – Platforms for unhealthy phenomena:authorizing discourseson the Grand Helsinki Mosque

The Oasis Complex(OC), popularly labelled the “Grand Helsinki Mosque,” was proposed in 2013 as the first (non-Tatar), purpose-built mosque in Finland. From the time the government of Bahrain pledged to finance initial expenses and agreed to coordinate funding from donors worldwide, including from Saudi Arabia, the mosque project was hotly contested in Finland. The proposed project was eventually rejected in 2018 after numerous protests, dedicated hashtags and televised (and otherwise) political debates. It was also heavily covered by the national print media across tabloids as well as morning and evening dailies.This media coverage offers a unique opportunity to check how different discourses are prioritized and authorized as the Finnish state and society engage on/with a religious minority.

In this presentation, I map various strategies of authorizations in legacy Finnish print-media that authorize OC’s articulation as potentially a social issue, a sectarian issue, and a security issue for Finland. Using categories proposed by the Epistemic Governance Framework, I identify examples of charismatic, ontological, moral, and capacity-based authorizations in the data. The breakdown, besides highlighting various framing strategies in the data, also offers insight on the type of authorization deemed necessary to validate a specific kind of claim on the project. When compared to discourses on contested Islamic spaces in other European countries, the analysis reveals that these authorizations rely on, and reaffirm, certain meta-narratives about Islam in the ‘west’.