When Silent Actors Talk: Bodies as Learning Infrastructure in the Post-Pandemic World


  • Aditi Arur Department of Psychology, Christ (Deemed to be Universty)
  • Sneha Saha Department of Psychology, Christ (Deemed to be University), NCR Campus, New Delhi
  • Anamika Vishwanathan Christ Consulting, Christ (Deemed to be University), Central Campus, Bengaluru
  • Revathi Shivakumar Bodhi Tree Coaching, Mumbai, India
  • Mariaet Wilson
  • Vandana Nandakumar
  • Anusha Varghese
  • Muskan Jain
  • Harsh Mohta
  • Aadhya Shivakumar Graduate student, Tufts University, U.S.A.
  • Diya Nanavati
  • Nandini Rai
  • Mahika Shergil
  • Saranya Dhawan
  • Shloka Gope
  • Phibu Jose




This paper is based on a qualitative research study that explored the lived experiences of 25 high school students when they first transitioned to online learning during the Covid-19 lockdown. The objectives of the study were to describe the lived experiences of high school students who transitioned to online learning during the lockdown in terms of their learning, and their mental and physical wellbeing; and to map the resources and strategies deployed by the students to navigate difficult circumstances of studying during a global public health crisis. The study employs actor network theory in education, a sociomaterial approach, in identifying the silent taken-for-granted human and non-human actors that constitute learning infrastructures whose presence and effects become visible only during infrastructural breakdowns such as the pandemic. The findings are organized into four themes each of which identify different aspects of the resources, that is, learning infrastructures needed for high school students to learn well. The first theme describes how learners are affected by the shift in the responsibility of providing learning infrastructure from private schools to private homes. While the second theme focuses on how historically developed classroom surveillance mechanisms play out when the body is no longer visible, the third theme explores how bodies can be envisioned as technologies of engagement. The last theme explores how students as integral beings respond physically and emotionally to the learning process. The findings of the study have implications for policymakers, school leadership, and educators to expand their understandings of learning infrastructures needed for learning in post-pandemic online and offline contexts.


Alirezabeigi, S., Masschelein, J., & Decuypere, M. (2020). Investigating digital doings through breakdowns: A sociomaterial ethnography of a Bring your Own Device school. Learning, Media and Technology, 45(2), 193–207. doi:10.1080/17439884.2020.1727501

Barrett, P., Treves, A., Shmis, T., Ambasz, D., & Ustinova, M. (2019). The impact of school infrastructure on learning: A synthesis of the evidence. World Bank.

Darder, A. (2016). Freire and the body. Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. Singapore: Springer.

Darder, A. (2011). Unfettered Bodies: Forging an Emancipatory Pedagogy of the Flesh. Counterpoints, 418, 343-359.

Dhawan, S. (2020). Online learning: A panacea in the time of COVID-19 crisis. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 49(1), 5-22.

Facer, K., & Buchczyk, M. (2019). Understanding Learning Cities as discursive, material and affective infrastructures. Oxford Review of Education, 45(2), 168–187. doi:10.1080/03054985.2018.1552581

Gary, M., & Berlinger, N. (2020). Interdependent citizens: The ethics of care in Pandemic recovery [Hastings Center report]. Hastings Center Report, 50(3), 56–58. doi:10.1002/hast.1134

González, N., Moll, L. C., & Amanti, C. (Eds.). (2006). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. Routledge.

Haraway, D. J. (1989). Primate visions: Gender, race, and nature in the world of modern science. Psychology Press.

Hargreaves, A. (2020). Austerity and inequality; or prosperity for all? Educational policy directions beyond the pandemic. Educational Research for Policy and Practice, 1–8.

Harris, A. (2020). COVID-19–school leadership in crisis?. Journal of Professional Capital and Community, 5(3/4), 321-326. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPCC-06-2020-0045

Kamperman, S. (2020). Academic ableism and students with intellectual/development Disabilities. Critical Education, 11(17), 21-38.

Kitto, S. (2003). Translating an electronic panopticon educational technology and the re-articulation of lecturer-student relations in online learning. Information, Communication & Society, 6(1), 1-23.

Larkin, B. (2013). The politics and poetics of infrastructure. Annual Review of Anthropology, 42(1), 327–343. doi:10.1146/annurev-anthro-092412-155522

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford University Press.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge university press.

Lynch, M. (2020). E-Learning during a global pandemic. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 15(1), 189-195.

Mansour, M., Martin, A. J., Anderson, M., Gibson, R., Liem, G. A. D., & Sudmalis, D. (2016). Student, home, and school socio-demographic factors: Links to school, home, and community arts participation. The Australian Educational Researcher, 43(2), 221-244.

Morgan, H. (2020). Best practices for implementing remote learning during a pandemic. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 93(3), 135-141.

Mseleku, Z. (2020). A literature review of E-learning and E-teaching in the era of Covid-19 pandemic. SAGE, 57(52), 588-597.

Nambissan, G. B. (2017). The ‘Urban’ and Education in India: Section Editor’s Introduction. In Second International handbook of urban education (pp. 299–318). Cham, Germany: Springer.

Packer, M. J. (2017). The science of qualitative research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Shapiro, S. B. (1999). Pedagogy and the politics of the body: A critical praxis. Psychology Press.

Soper, K. (2000). Naturalized woman and feminized nature. The green studies reader: From romanticism to ecocriticism, 139–143.

Sunandan, K. N. (2016). Critical mind and labouring body: Caste and education reforms in Kerala. Artha - Journal of Social Sciences, 15(2), 27–48. doi:10.12724/ajss.37.2

Teräs, M., Suoranta, J., Teräs, H., & Curcher, M. (2020). Post-Covid-19 education and education technology ‘solutionism’: A seller’s market. Postdigital Science and Education, 2(3), 863-878.