Nünning, Ansgar; Nünning, Vera (2020):
"Konkurrierende Krisengeschichten der Corona-Pandemie: ‚Kampf der Narrative‘, Gegegenwartsdiagnosen, epistemologische Krise und Kritik von Lebensformen?." Narrative der Krise. Special issue of Germanisch-Romanische Monatsschrift 70.3-4: 445-493.
Journal Article

Proceeding from the insights about crisis as a metaphor and particular kind of cultural narrative delineated in the introduction to this special issue, this essay examines the competing narratives that have emerged in the wake of the crises generated by the Corona-virus pandemic and the Covid-19 illness. It argues that crisis narratives in general and the particular stories that have been disseminated to report on and explain the ongoing Corona crisis always consist of both a diagnosis of the present state of affairs in a society and an attempt to project scenarios of possible futures. The first section introduces the ongoing battle between competing narratives and the concomitant question of whether the Coronavirus pandemic qualifies as a ‘Black Swan’ (sensu Nassim Nicholas Taleb), i. e. the kind of highly improbable event that causes massive consequences. Taking its cue from the question „Crisis compared to what?“ posed by the anthropologist Janet Roitman, section 2 explores the relation between crisis narratives, the diagnoses of the present that they entail, and the underlying norms and values of such judgments about crises. Section 3 then examines the implications of the most salient competing narratives that have been disseminated about the Coronavirus pandemic and the Covid-19 crises. In section 4, we make an attempt to clarify what kind of crisis we are currently witnessing, asking whether the latter can be understood as a catalyst of a cluster or series of different crises, as a ‘deep crisis’ with various dimensions and layers, and as a ‘patchwork pandemic’. In section 5 we turn our attention to the contagious nature of narratives in general and competing stories surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic in particular, arguing that they constitute more than just an ‘infodemic’ in that they amount to nothing less than an epistemological and normative crisis. The essay concludes by exploring the underlying big questions that crisis narratives of the pandemic as critiques of non-sustainable forms of life raise and that the scenarios of possible futures they project inevitably entail, i. e. how do we want to live and how do we want to live together? The question mark at the end of the subtitle of this essay serves to indicate that any answer to the big questions raised by the pandemic and the current proliferation of crises narratives revolving around it will at this stage necessarily have to be provisional and tentative.