The Quarantine Question

How has the past year's quarantine affected your professional life?

Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of an Art Historian, 2020−21

7:00 a.m. Make coffee; check news on the phone.

Note to self: No point worrying.

9:00 a.m. Zoom with student to discuss PhD fieldwork stalled for almost a year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Note to self: Very concerned; how will they finish under these circumstances?

10:00 a.m. Teach class on the Manila-Acapulco trade route via Zoom.

Note to self: Twelve hours+ time difference for students from Asia attending synchronously; must transcribe lecture notes.

12:00 p.m. [name redacted] Working Group Zoom meeting to develop long-term strategic campus priorities.

Note to self: Feign interest in the corporate jargon of performance and value explained with a nifty PowerPoint; global pandemic be damned.

1:00 p.m. Prepare notes for a talk in the evening; eyestrain due to prolonged screen time.

Note to self: Need to call Mom to check on Dad’s chemo appointment.

2:00 p.m. Zoom office hours; meet with three students who are falling behind in class due to COVID-related hospitalizations in their families.

Note to self: Emotionally drained.

3:30 p.m. Rush to the grocery store, queue for one hour, and sanitize groceries for another hour after returning home.

Note to self: Use Instacart next time, even though the fees are exorbitant.

5:00 p.m. Make coffee; Skype with a close friend whose partner passed away due to COVID-19 complications.

Note to self: Exhausted; request a mutual friend to help plan the virtual memorial.

7:00 p.m. Give a virtual talk in New Delhi on the “political ecologies of breathing.”

Note to self: Must be more coherent next time; make stronger coffee.

9:00 p.m. Call Mom, Dad’s chemo appointment canceled because the nurse has tested COVID-positive.

Note to self: Feeling helpless; cannot even fly to India if he passes away.

10:00 p.m. Stare vacantly at a Word document instead of writing an essay on art and ecology that was due last month.

Note to self: Will start tomorrow; cannot think anymore.

SUGATA RAY, art historian and associate professor, University of California, Berkeley