A Multimodal Discourse Appraisal of Space and Spatiality vis-à-vis Migration in the Era of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic
sapientia journal vol 18


Social Distancing


Space and spatiality, though essentially linguistic/semiotic, as well as metaphysical concepts, have come to find relevance in the health sciences as an essential preventive measure for contagious viruses such as SARS, Flu, Ebola and currently, the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic. The research beam light recently focused on social distancing by social and health institutions, as well as research experts on health-related issues, is due to the present-day realities, in which migration, and the nature of mobility has made it difficult, and indeed, impossible for migrants to adhere to the rules of social distancing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It is against the backdrop of the foregoing that this paper undertook a multimodal discourse appraisal of space and spatiality in the context of the 21st century migration amidst the COVID-19 waves. The objective was to, among other things, establish the relevance of the concept of social distancing in the ensuing health and social realities. The analysis was based on Jay Lemke's Multimodal Semiotic Theory which takes into cognizance social context, among other considerations, in the unveiling and proper interpretation of the meaning potentials of multimodal semiotic resources (such as space). Altogether twelve (12) pictures, four (4) each of adequate social distancing, migrants crossing the desert in crowded lorries, and the sea in crowded ships into Europe and Italy were culled from various internet sites, and analyzed using Lemke's strand of multimodality theory highlighted above. Both from the raw semiotic data (pictures) and the multimodal explications, it was discovered that, in Africa, at least, rules on social distancing are grossly ignored, perhaps due to poverty, ignorance, religious beliefs or mere negligence. Thus, it was suggested that government and other regulatory agencies put in place stricter measures toward ensuring compliance to social distancing, especially by would be migrants.