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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it produces, Covid-19, have not only produced a “public health crisis,” but also triggered a “crisis in public confidence,” exacerbating the extant “polarization crisis” seen as dividing the American public. In this charged context, knowledge about SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19 has become highly politicized, with many counter-narratives circulating regarding the nature and heritage of viral risk and the intentions and effects of official responses. Fraught meanings prevent consensus on the nature of the Covid-19 crisis and the appropriateness of responses even while semantic undecidability is rendered moot as the crisis is legally officiated in “lockdowns” and mask mandates. This project explores the idea of crisis through the lens of history, philosophy, science and medicine to understand the complex genealogy of the term in western culture and the relevance of this genealogy for contemporary crisis deployments, such as the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.