Pivot 2021 Virtual Conference July 22-23 2021
Dismantling Reassembling - tools for alternative futures

A Lesson from Fazal Sheikh’s “Desert Bloom” for living in a Post-COVID World

We are told that we can expect to live with an assortment of “new normals” at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are also told that living through the COVID-19 pandemic has made us better able to face longstanding challenges such as climate change and inegalitarian social arrangements. In this paper I reflect on what we are being told by drawing on a lesson I have learned from Fazal Sheikh’s 2011 aerial photographic series to locate evidence of Bedouin villages in the Negev desert in the wake of Israeli campaigns in the 1960s to “make the desert bloom.” The lesson includes recognizing the importance of continuing what Asef Bayat has described as the “silent, patient, protracted and pervasive advancement of ordinary people on the propertied and powerful.” All things considered, I have learned to be distrustful of and resisting new ways of living that encourage us to learn from past suffering and disasters so as to become ever more adaptive (i.e., resilient) to future suffering and disasters in a post-COVID world.

COVID-19 pandemic, Fazal Sheikh, Bedouin relocation in the Negev desert, gray space, resilience

About Bill Leeming

Bill Leeming I am currently an Associate Professor teaching in the Social Sciences stream of the Faculty of Arts & Science, OCAD University. Much of my academic work has focused on technology adoption in science, technology, and medicine. Why am I then writing about aerial photographic images that Fazal Sheikh produced in 2011? Because they encourage me as a Canadian to look for ways of seeing whole social worlds in the face of encroaching neoliberalism and the threat of ecological catastrophe. This is not just about “this here” looking like “that there.” Sheikh’s images help me to understand that the myriad of rifts between humans and the world and one another exist in something more than homogenous space.


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