The Pandemic as a Portal: activism and opportunities for structural change following moments of crisis and upheaval

Hosted by the Department of International Relations

Online public event


Grace Blakeley

Grace Blakeley

Dr Aviah Sarah Day

Dr Aviah Sarah Day

Chrisann Jarrett

Chrisann Jarrett

Shanice McBean

Shanice McBean

Sakina Sheikh


Dr Milli Lake

Dr Milli Lake


Dr Milli Lake

Natalya Naqvi

A burgeoning body of scholarship shows that activists can harness opportunities created by war, upheaval, and economic collapse to leverage transformative social change. Precisely because they are so destructive, moments of crisis can upend existing social and political hierarchies and create new spaces for mobilization and structural change. How can activists leverage this moment to advance the representation and inclusion of communities most marginalized by status quo politics?

How can the pandemic make visible solutions to the pressing challenges posed by climate change, rising inequality, and economic recession? How can we build solidarity across social, economic and racial fissures while those with power are invested in fomenting division? And how can we avoid cooptation of this moment by elites with a vested interest in maintaining status quo politics? We bring together activists and academics with experience in intersectional grassroots political organizing in the UK and beyond to grapple with these questions, laying bare the challenges, opportunities, and pathways to progress presented by COVID-19.

Grace Blakeley (@graceblakeley) is a staff writer at Tribune magazine and author of Stolen: How to save the world from financialisation and The Corona Crash: How the pandemic will change capitalism.

Aviah Sarah Day (@Aviah_Sarah_Day)  is currently a lecturer in Criminology at Birkbeck, University of London as well as an activist in the East End chapter of Sisters Uncut. Sisters Uncut is a national direct-action collective fighting cuts to domestic violence services as well as state violence. Aviah’s PhD titled “Partnership and Power: Domestic Violence, the Women’s Sector and the Criminal Justice System” applied an intersectional approach to women’s sector partnership with the criminal justice system, focusing specifically on gender, class, ‘race’, immigration status and disability. Her research interests are survivor criminalisation, transformative justice and prison abolition.

Chrisann Jarrett is the Co-founder and co-CEO of We Belong. In 2014, she founded the project Let Us Learn calling for equal access to higher education for young migrants living in the UK. Since then Chrisann has been at the forefront of social change and has worked as Policy Advisor at the Greater London Authority. She believes in building young leaders and highlights the importance of sharing power. She has spoken at the United Nations in New York, the British Council and has won a number awards including Young Women of the Year, Rare Rising Stars 'UK's top 10 black students' and was shortlisted for a Liberty Human Right Award. She is currently a Trustee to the Queens Commonwealth Trust which champions, funds and connect young founders from the 54 commonwealth nations.

Shanice is an activist and writer from Handsworth, currently living in Tottenham.

Sakina Sheikh (@SakinaZS) is a Labour and Co-operative Party Councillor for the London Borough of Lewisham.

Natalya Naqvi (@natalyanaqvi) is an assistant professor in International Political Economy at LSE. Her research interests are in the areas of international and comparative political economy, with a focus on the role of the state and the financial sector in economic development, as well as the amount of policy space developing countries have to conduct selective industrial policy.

Milli Lake (@MilliLake) is an Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations. She co-directs the Women's Rights After War project, a project that falls under LSE’s Gender Justice and Security HUB, and is jointly funded by the National Science Foundation and the UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund. Using a variety of participatory research methods, the project evaluates the lived realities of post-war gender reform efforts as they are experienced by women from different class, ethnic, racial, religious, or other backgrounds.

The Department of International Relations (@LSEIRDept) is one of the oldest as well as largest in the world. It is ranked 4th in the QS World University Ranking by Subject 2019 tables for Politics and International Studies.

This event forms part of LSE’s Shaping the Post-COVID World initiative, a series of debates about the direction the world could and should be taking after the crisis.

Twitter Hashtag for this event: #LSECOVID19

Podcast & Video

A podcast of this event is available to download from The Pandemic as a Portal: activism and opportunities for structural change following moments of crisis and upheaval.

A video of this event is available to watch at The Pandemic as a Portal: activism and opportunities for structural change following moments of crisis and upheaval.

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