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'The only almost germ-free continent left': Pandemics and purity in cultural perceptions of Antarctica


Leane, E and Lavery, C and Nash, M, 'The only almost germ-free continent left': Pandemics and purity in cultural perceptions of Antarctica, Environmental Humanities pp. 1-27. ISSN 2524-5708 (In Press) [Refereed Article]


This paper examines the role of pandemics and viruses in cultural perceptions of Antarctica over the past century. In the popular imagination, Antarctica has often been framed as a place of purity, refuge and isolation. In a series of fiction and screen texts from the nineteenth century to the present, viruses feature prominently. The texts fall into two categories: narratives in which Antarctica is the sole source of safety in a pandemic-ravaged world, and those in which a virus (or another form of contagion) is discovered within the continent itself and needs to be contained. Viruses in these texts are not only literal but also metaphorical, taking the form of any kind of threatening infection, and as such are linked to texts in which Antarctic purity is discursively connected to racial and gendered exclusivity. Based on this comparison, we argue that ideas of containment and contagion can have political connotations in an Antarctic context, to the extent that they are applied to particular groups of people in order to position them as Ďaliení to the Antarctic environment. We show that the recent media construction of Antarctica during COVID-19 needs to be understood against this disturbing aspect of the Antarctic imaginary, and also that narratives of Antarctic purity are imaginatively linked to both geopolitical exclusions and the melting of Antarctic ice.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:COVID-19, virus, pandemic, Antarctica, fiction, polar regions, media
Research Division:Language, Communication and Culture
Research Group:Literary studies
Research Field:Ecocriticism
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Communication
Objective Field:Literature
UTAS Author:Leane, E (Professor Elizabeth Leane)
ID Code:152205
Year Published:In Press
Deposited By:English
Deposited On:2022-08-14
Last Modified:2022-09-20
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