Conjunctural Insurrections – “Embodying Absence”

The first time we meet, I think she is going to punch me. Months later we laugh about it in the park as she teaches me to disarm someone with a knife. Dancing, weaving and lunging with sticks, she reprimands me for being too slow. She calls herself “Trouble”, calls me a friend, and on 26 March 2020, she disappears.

Trouble is not the only one to vanish in the wake of coronavirus. Eight friends disappear in total, each of them homeless. Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives. Their absences become a silence marked by lack of access to digital technologies and communication. Could they be stashed into hotel rooms as per the Government’s promise? Could it be that they are missing only from the digital epoch we have entered, that they are here somewhere if only I could look for them? No. Their silence is a bodily non-presence. They are missing, and I in turn miss them.

Josie Jolley is a PhD student in the Department of Geography at the University of Sussex; j.jolley@sussex.ac.uk

For more on Antipode’s “Conjunctural Insurrections” series – an experiment to amplify voices often unheard and invisibilised in politics, daily life, and academic discourse – see https://antipodeonline.org/2020/06/23/conjunctural-insurrections/