The epiphanic moments of COVID-19: the revelation of painful national truths

Mette Hjort*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Focusing on the small nation state of Denmark, this article considers the implications of responses to COVID-19 for the dynamics of multiple belonging involving Western and Asian nations. The claim is that COVID-19’s cultural dimensions include the phenomenon of weakened attachments to an originary homeland on the part, for example, of non-resident Danes and a concomitant strengthening of commitments to adopted homelands in Asia, such as Hong Kong. To understand these shifting allegiances, it is necessary to be attuned to the cultural virulence of COVID-19. In coining the term ‘cultural virulence’ I seek to draw attention to the ways in which the virus has been not only a source of contagion and illness, but a veritable engine of telling cultural revelations. In COVID-19’s cultural virulence we discover striking manifestations of painful national truths that we ignore at our peril. Careful scrutiny of COVID-19’s epiphanic moments brings to light Western arrogance and exceptionalism, a costly refusal to acknowledge the tried and tested efficacy of Asian practices. Faced with a future marked by pandemics, we must recognize the need for humility in the West regarding the cultural and geographic provenance of best practices as these relate to the containment of serious epidemiological threats.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-513
Number of pages9
JournalCultural Studies
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Cultural virulence
  • national truths
  • originary and adopted homelands
  • transnational sympathy
  • Western exceptionalism


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