Kandida Purnell By: Kandida Purnell
Assistant Professor of International Relations
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28 Apr 2020 : On Dreams and/of Death

As my first contribution to the Covid-19 Health Diaries, I meant to post this yesterday (on Monday) but was too tired to..

Sleep is elusive and then strange in the time of Corona 'crisis'. This is something noticed by and motivating the University College London (UCL) based Lockdown Dreams project - the aim of which is  to collect up and psychoanalyse our night time visions during the quarantine via submissions received by email. My dreams of late often involve 'doing' either some or all the ‘old’ commute to either one of my University’s two campuses in what seems like real time.  The world and ways of ‘before’ feel so dangerous now. I might (sleep) walk through Richmond train station holding my breath, ducking out of the way of commuters who seem oblivious to what we've been through and show no intention of attempting to social distance. Is this a glimpse of the near future? I hope not but realise it the present for the many who have continued to use public transport here throughout our 'outbreak' due to UK's only partial lockdown. Sometimes I sit on the tube with my head down willing the journey to end. I don't have a mask but I know I need one. And then, I wake up, relieved to be in the safety of the flat and having not be ‘exposed.’ Sometimes, in a different vein, my sleep is spent ruminating on the latest twist in the UK’s Covid-19 story. I hear the news mostly in the evening and process it nocturnally and unconsciously. For example, I learned during yesterday’s evening news that UK National Health Service workers killed by COVID-19 have had their lives/deaths valued at GBP60,000 each by the British Government. This is the sum that will now be paid out to each of the families of our deceased health workers under the newly unveiled 'Death in Service' scheme. I'm going to need more than one night to process this one - especially as I work on the (global) politics of body counts, value, and grievability. However, no matter the theme or exact content, in my new lockdown night life, after every 'chapter' of every dream, I awaken. This happens almost exactly hourly, and then, in a new night time ritual, I simply turn over before going surprisingly quickly back to sleep.. just in time for the next chapter to begin. 

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