Leveraging uncertainty during a health crisis: A comparison of four international leader’s discourse during the first six months of COVID-19

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic researchpeer-review


Dramatic social events such as civil unrest, natural disasters, and health crisis have well-documented impacts upon individuals and communities. Although such events are becoming more common globally, there is limited empirical research that explores how individuals renegotiate identity and community connections in the immediate aftermath of a crisis event. We present a case study to explore identity work and emotion after social rupture by drawing on the 2019 social unrest in Hong Kong.
The most recent prolonged period of unrest in Hong Kong began in June 2019, culminating in a ‘general strike’ in November of that year. Various groups converged onto some of the city’s university campuses with strategic positions around main roads and tunnels of the city. The conflict escalated and resulted in severe damage to university property. University campuses were locked down for repairs and face-to-face learning and teaching and research abruptly stopped.
Our study draws on social constructionist approaches, with particular reference to the work of Beech (2011) and Sablonniere et al. (2019) to present an exploration of the identity work done by individual community members in the aftermath of these events. We use qualitative interview data from 60 staff and students from University A to explore how the language of emotion reflected sense-making and identity reformation from these interviews. Data analysis indicates various types of loss and the manifestation of emotions associated with stress, anxiety and uncertainty. The findings of this research inform the social and psychological study of conflict, identity and emotion.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusNot published / presented only - 31 Jul 2021


  • Uncertainty
  • Health communication
  • Crisis

Cite this