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Organized by Center for Population and Policy Studies, Universitas Gadjah Mada

Covid-19 Pandemic has disrupted our live both individually and collectively. It continues produces fear and uncertainties in the whole planet. Before the COVID-19 pandemic which started in Wuhan in late 2019, the free movement of billions of people – including tourists, business people, digital nomads, refugees and students – across nations was a common part of life. In 2018, the number of international tourist arrivals rose 6% over the previous year and reached an all-time high of 1.4 billion trips. About 272 million people are residing outside their birth country. This number is projected to reach 405 million by 2050. However, as the pandemic rages on, infecting more than 7.502.278 people with over 421,000 deaths worldwide, governments have imposed travel bans and closed their borders to control the spread of the virus. Shutting down businesses and social gatherings has left nearly zero physical mobility and severely disrupted the global economy. In light of this, one can’t help but wonder: could COVID-19 spell the end of international mobility as we know it?

Shall we rethink the limits of current ‘global mobility regime’ for the sake of our immediate and long-term future?

Business activity is faltering at rates never before seen. The World Economic Outlook projects the global economy will contract by 3%, plummeting around 6.3 percentage points from January 2020. The International Monetary Fund has declared this the worst recession since the Great Depression. The coronavirus requires us to re-evaluate whether we want to continue living under this “global mobility regime” – where a great deal of economic activity relies heavily on international and regional travel.

The late German modernity theorist Ulrich Beck and British sociologist Anthony Giddens argued that intertwining elements of modernity such as industrialisation, international mobility and globalisation have created a society susceptible to a variety of new risks and unforeseen consequences. These vulnerabilities – which are “systematic and cause irreversible harms” in Beck’s words – range from international ecological disaster and terrorism to global health pandemics, which is evident in the current crisis.

Extending beyond its origin in Wuhan, China, the coronavirus has spread to cause catastrophic damages across borders, nations, generations and social strata. The same advances that have helped us travel across borders at speeds and volumes never before imagined are increasing the deadliness and global reach of the virus. The biggest problem is that, the virus will remain here and there, its mobility is transnational. Coupled with the boomerang effect of industrial and post-industrial society, it fuelling the production of new risks in our planet. How post-pandemic may and will influence our immediate and long-term future social mobility? How social scientist understand and analyse these entanglements? This panel focuses in the discussion of this issue.