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Hoping in a COVID-19 World

aUniversity of Amsterdam, Netherlands
bKenyon College, USA

The Emerald Handbook of the Sociology of Emotions for a Post-Pandemic World

ISBN: 978-1-80382-324-9, eISBN: 978-1-80382-323-2

Publication date: 14 April 2023


In this chapter we apply a range of insights drawn from social science studies of hope amidst contexts of illness, and studies of hope emerging from the sociology of emotions, in critically considering social processes of hoping amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. While much of the health sciences literature on hope emphasises positive outcomes in terms of coping and motivation, we also draw upon various perspectives which denote a dark side of hoping, whereby inequalities and injustices are tolerated, or where feeling rules insidiously coordinate collective hopes in ways which serve various political-economic interests. Reflecting this ambivalence across different literatures, our examples and analyses suggest that hoping as a social process is itself inherently conflicted, dissonant and rife with tensions. As we explore the contradictions of hoping amidst a pandemic, the tensions between expectations and desire, tragedy and optimism, aspiring to act and fatalistic acceptance make apparent that emotions of hope can be neither neatly delineated nor disentangled from a ‘messy’ web of related feelings and framings. We extend our emphasis of these blurry, dissonant and messy aspects of hoping through work on ‘tragic optimism’, following Frankl, wherein wider lifeworlds or imaginaries pertaining to deeply embodied and implicit notions of self and a good life are central to maintaining hope amidst heightened vulnerability and uncertainty. We close by laying out a post-formal approach to hope, which methodologically and conceptually focusses on contradictions and dissonance in narratives of hope, whereby living hopefully always involves living awkwardly with these tensions.



Brown, P. and Cottingham, M.D. (2023), "Hoping in a COVID-19 World", Ward, P.R. and Foley, K. (Ed.) The Emerald Handbook of the Sociology of Emotions for a Post-Pandemic World, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 47-65.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023 Patrick Brown and Marci D. Cottingham. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited