More than ever a relational approach is needed: Social Construction and the global pandemic

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Celiane Camargo-Borges
Sheila McNamee


We are living in challenging times, surfacing many reactions, thoughts, visions and beliefs in an attempt to understand and offer ways to cope with the COVID crisis and the recovery of the world. We believe a constructionist stance can help us respond to this moment.  Everyday life is uncertain, although we most often act as if it is predictable and dependably redundant.  We organize our lives around certainties that lead us to feel that we are in control. The pandemic has pulled the rug from under our feet and uncertainty is now the slogan of our time. However, one “silver lining” of the pandemic might be the way it exposes the unfolding nature of our worlds. To that end, the pandemic helps us embody and thus “know from within” (Shotter, 2010) a constructionist sensibility.  This embodiment of social construction takes us far beyond a simple academic understanding. The confluence of the pandemic and learning about social construction can create the opportunity to put ideas into practice and, in so doing, our understanding of constructionist ideas is deepened.

From a constructionist perspective, COVID-19 is not separate from us.  It is happening through us, in us, between us and because of us. Social construction helps us see the world as an interconnected and complex system in which macro and micro levels, as well as human and non-human entities are constantly creating and re-creating possible realities (Simon & Salter, 2020). Indeed, this highly contagious virus, initially framed as a public health issue,  soon revealed its complexity, having also political, social, economic, environmental and relational entanglements. Our attempt to balance the shutdowns (staying at home), for health protection, with the economic need for business to operate is an illustration of how interconnected these systems are. The virus also makes it necessary to balance physical distance with social connection and collective support.

 Despite the fear and discomfort, the potential for change ignited by this global crisis is substantial. By coming together with a diversity of voices, experiences, and perspectives, new performances can be enacted, new ways to respond and cope can be imagined, and new forms of living can be created – and these are all changes that could possibly be sustained once the pandemic has past. The pandemic therefore is a perfect time for dialogue and innovation. Dialogue and relationality are fundamental pillars in the construction, de-construction and re-construction of knowledge and society (Gergen, 2009a). Change starts with us in our interactions, one interaction at a time. SC invites us to come together and share the challenges we face, co-creating new possibilities for health and connection. Through collective interactions, new meanings and possibilities emerge; we re-invent realities.

How can we address this interconnected and complex reality? And how do we ignite change that supports a reconstruction of our world in ways that address the inequities we currently face? What are the social conditions that can ignite new forms of understanding that generate new and resourceful ways of living? 

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How to Cite
Camargo-Borges, C., & McNamee, S. (2020). More than ever a relational approach is needed: Social Construction and the global pandemic. Murmurations: Journal of Transformative Systemic Practice, 3(1).