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Pandemic Anger and Semiotic Meaning-making of Loss of Lifeworld Freedoms

Kingsley Whittenbury (Flinders University, Australia)

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


Anger responding to government-imposed COVID-19 pandemic mandates is examined in relation to 2021 international reports of street protests in cities, with a focus on Perth, Western Australia. Angry protestors displayed a variety of signs and symbols, united under banners demanding freedom. A multi-disciplinary analysis attends to distrust in public health mandates in the global context of an insecure biosphere. Mandates can signify symbolic death, and anger an ‘immune’ response to lifeworld constraints. Anger among nurses and vaccine-hesitant protestors signifies ethical rejection of super-imposed mandates, and fear of alleged vaccine harms. Official pandemic communications are held to be ill-timed, lacking information meaningful to diverse citizens' needs, and offset by poorly contextualised data and unreliable pre-packaged interpretations communicated via digital technologies. A novel hypothesis proposes semiotic misrecognition of the global nature of communications from intersecting ecosocial crises may underlie protestors' anger. Modelling of a management system to validate broad contextual knowledges may restore meaningful balance and public solidarity, to creatively respond to future human crises.




For her editing suggestions and encouragement, I wish to thank Dr Lisa Davies.


Whittenbury, K. (2023), "Pandemic Anger and Semiotic Meaning-making of Loss of Lifeworld Freedoms", 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. 135-160.



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Copyright © 2023 Kingsley Whittenbury. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited