DOI: 10.1515/applirev-2023-0254 ISSN: 1868-6303

Affective geographies and tribal epistemologies: studying abroad during COVID-19

Rodney H. Jones, Sylvia Jaworska, Zhu Hua
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


This paper explores the relationship between epistemologies, tribalism and affect in the experiences of Chinese international students studying in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on data from student diaries, interviews, and focus groups, it explores how boundaries between in-groups and out-groups were erected and dismantled through processes of socio-temporal scaling, whereby social actors configured affective geographies by linking local spatial relationships to higher level (national and international) scales. The analysis reveals how negative emotions like fear of infection led to practices of spatial distancing and the drawing of cultural boundaries between groups, while feelings of worry about family members in China shaped communication patterns and information flows across geographic spaces. At times, however, positive emotions like affection and sympathy helped participants transcend boundaries, leading them to readjust their emotional mappings of the world and reevaluate their beliefs about COVID. The study highlights the central role affect and emotional labor play both in the formulation of epistemologies around health and in the drawing of boundaries between groups.

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