Economies of Mortalities: Ageism and Disposability During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter focuses upon the rhetoric of the disposability of older people that emerged within the United Kingdom’s public discourse around mortality expectations during the earlier days of the Covid-19 pandemic. A common theme in news coverage from the outset was that the majority of deaths from the virus were occurring in older people and therefore the young need not be so alarmed. This chapter will explore connections between state and media responses to Covid-19, theories of ageism and differing applications of Achille Mbembe’s concept of necropolitics, which suggests that the ultimate expression of sovereignty resides in the power to dictate who may live and who may die. These ideas are linked also to the concept of ‘gerocide’, that is, the ‘willed mass death of persons deemed old’ (Cohen, 2020) and therefore a key cultural mechanism through which necropolitics is able to function. In this way then, intersectionalities between necropolitical governmentality and public discourse around the value of older people will be explored, in relation to seemingly engrained economies of mortalities that became particularly visible during the pandemic, highlighting the ways in which ageism could be observed as part of the foundation of the global public health response to Covid-19.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDifficult Death, Dying and the Dead in Media and Culture
EditorsSharon Coleclough, Bethan Michael-Fox, Renske Visser
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-40732-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-40731-4, 978-3-031-40734-5
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2023

Cite this