The Culling: Pandemic, Gerocide, Generational Affect


Old age has been central to public health rationalities and contestations of the 2019–2020 coronavirus pandemic. This article thinks through what age is and does in pandemic times by juxtaposing four domains of ethical publicity in which age comes to matter: (1) mass fatality of old persons under conditions of variable unpreparedness; (2) circulation of social‐Darwinist argument for herd immunity through culling of the weak; (3) everyday challenges of late life care as these are amplified under quarantine; and (4) long‐term conditions of economic and political impasse and environmental collapse, experienced as failure of older generations and abandonment of younger ones, a situation here termed generational affect. It asks to what extent the figure of the cullable old renders racialized disparities natural and makes sense through a generational affect in which the world feels as if the survival of the young is in question.