Transparent Boundaries as Scenographies of Trust: The COVID-19 Pandemic from the View of Material Cultural Studies and Artistic Works

Article Summary by Monika Ankele and Céline Kaiser

From the start, the profound transformations that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic found expression in a plethora of objects and facilities that dominated our daily lives far beyond the clinical sphere. Supermarkets, hotel receptions, taxis, restaurants, doctors’ surgeries and even schools were equipped with plexiglass screens of all sizes and shapes to allow face-to-face encounters. In our paper, we trace these changes and their social impact in our everyday world. Starting from the material cultures of our daily spaces that changed in the context of COVID-19, we ask how our sensory modes of perception and social spaces changed. With the methodological approaches offered to us by material cultural studies and artistic practices, we pursue these questions on the one hand with examples from the history of medicine regarding the design of clinical spaces and on the other hand with artistic interventions that reflect these transparent boundary markings in their meaning for sensual and social interrelations.


Read the full article on the Medical Humanities journal website.


Portrait of Monika AnkeleMonika Ankele is a historian and scientific researcher at the Department of Ethics, Collections and History of Medicine at the Medical University of Vienna and was a curator at the Medical History Museum in Hamburg. In her research, she focuses on material cultures of medicine, patient’s histories, art and psychiatry, health and architecture and medical humanities. Her current research puts a special emphasis on the hospital bed and the practice of lying in bed. In March 2024, she will take over the professorship for Medical History and Medical Museology at the Charité Berlin and will be the head of the Berlin Museum for Medical History at the Charité. Together with Céline Kaiser, she co-directs the Institute for Medical & Health Humanities and Artistic Research (IMHAR).



Portrait of Céline KaiserCéline Kaiser is a Professor of Media cultural Studies and Scenic Research at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts (Hochschule für Künste im Sozialen), Ottersberg. Her research straddles medical and cultural history and artistic practice. In her dissertation she analysed Max Nordau’s Entartung, and in a postdoctoral research project, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation 2007-2018, she also researched the history of scenic and theatrical forms of therapy since the 18th century.  She is currently working at the intersections of disability and neurodiversity studies, critical medical humanities, environmental humanities, and writing as artistic research. Together with Monika Ankele, she co-directs the Institute for Medical & Health Humanities and Artistic Research (IMHAR).

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