Proportionality in public health ethics, fear and state of exception: a narrative ethics approach to lockdown in Italy in 2020

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


In this paper I tackle the following question: to what extent is it ethically justifiable to interfere with individual freedoms to manage a novel infectious disease outbreak? This article focuses on lockdown in Italy in 2020 and discusses an under-explored angle to the debate: the ban on outdoor exercise, which was unique to Italy in the European context of Covid-19 lockdowns. The paper proceeds as follows. I first provide a background on lockdown measures in Italy in 2020 and on the institutional framework for crisis management in Italy. I then outline the public health principles of proportionality and least infringement, before moving on to present the public perception and lived experiences of the ban on outdoor exercise in Italy in 2020. I then present a critical narrative ethics analysis of the statement of Emilia-Romagna Governor Stefano Bonaccini speaking to the press about his decision to introduce the restriction on outdoor exercise. I conclude discussing the implications of specific narratives employed to frame the emergency for the mobilization of types of expert knowledge to manage the crisis, for construction of cultural memory of the pandemic, and for its biopolitical legacy.
Period19 Oct 2022
Held atMonash University, Australia, Victoria
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • narrative ethics
  • pandemic
  • covid-19
  • security
  • bioethics
  • narrative research
  • narrative methodology
  • state of exception
  • public health ethics