Commodifying COVID-19: Humanitarian Communication at the Onset of a Global Pandemic

Maha Rafi Atal*, Lisa Ann Richey

*Corresponding author for this work

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Corporations have become prominent actors in responding to COVID-19. Within the context of increasing privatization of humanitarianism and marketization of social justice, corporate define the global crisis of COVID-19. Understanding corporate COVID-19 communications contributes to understanding the politics of the global pandemic. This article analyzes companies’ humanitarian communications during the early phase of COVID19 in Europe and North America to identify how their messages define COVID-19 and justified particular responses. We find that brands constructed COVID-19 as a crisis of expertise and logistics, a crisis of resources and capital, and a crisis of the self. In response to these crises, corporations provide products to “help” consumers to manage the pandemic and to manage themselves. These humanitarian narratives make the case that business has a concrete role to play in solving crises and present individual consumption as a humanitarian act.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Political Science
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)421-450
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: 9. November 2021

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