Virus and Visible Reality

Biopolitics, Crime, and Disability in Peter May’s Lockdown


  • Goutam Karmakar Barabazar Bikram Tudu Memorial College, West Bengal
  • Jaya Sarkar BITS Pilani (Hyderabad Campus), India


Lockdown, Pandemic, Quarantine, Crime, Biopolitics, Virus


This paper examines Peter May’s crime novel Lockdown (2020) to explain how a bioengineered virus cripples London and results in a crime, the denouement of which reveals a nefarious, capitalist purpose that is a stark reflection of the world we live in. The plan to use an artificially engineered virus as a bioweapon to profit wreaks havoc in London, resulting in several deaths, fear, panic, civil disorder, a spike in crime, and a string of anarchy throughout the city. By examining Michel Foucault’s concept of biopower and Giorgio Agamben and Slavoj Žižek’s perspectives on the ethics and politics of the virus, the paper aims to demonstrate how a virus transforms London into the centre of a global pandemic, compelling the officials to implement a lockdown. The paper also discusses how Lockdown (2020) can be viewed as a hard-boiled crime narrative due to the urban setting of London, the sensational and violent crime, the true-to-life description of events, and the male protagonist’s visible dominance. Additionally, the paper endeavours to depict how the disabilities of certain characters are inextricably linked to the frozen state of the city under lockdown.

Author Biography

Jaya Sarkar, BITS Pilani (Hyderabad Campus), India

Doctoral Fellow, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, BITS Pilani (Hyderabad Campus), India


Agamben, G. (1995). Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. (D. Heller-Roazen, Trans.). Stanford University Press.

Agamben, G. (2005). State of Exception. (K. Attell, Trans.). The University of Chicago Press.

Agamben, G. (2020a, February 26). The Invention of an Epidemic. Quodlibet. Retrieved from:

Agamben, G. (2020b, March 17). Giorgio Agamben: Clarifications. (A. Kotsko, Trans). An und für sich. Retrieved from:

Banerjee, D., & Rai, M. (2020). Social isolation in Covid-19: The impact of loneliness. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 66(6), 525-527.

Berge, L. van den. (2020). Biopolitics and the Coronavirus: Foucault, Agamben, Žižek. Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy, 49(1), 3-6.

Briggs, D., et al. (2021). Lockdown: Social Harm in the Covid-19 Era. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cheung, L, & Gunby, P. (2021). Crime and mobility during the COVID-19 lockdown: a preliminary empirical exploration. New Zealand Economic Papers, 1-8.

Davis, L. J. (2013). The End of Normal: Identity in a Biocultural Era. The University of Michigan Press.

Delanty, G. (2020). Six political philosophies in search of a virus: Critical perspectives on the coronavirus pandemic. LSE ‘Europe in Question’ Discussion Paper Series, 156/2020. Papers/LEQSPaper156.pdf

Edwards, C. (2010). Disability and the City. In R. Hutchison (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Urban Studies (pp. 218-221). Sage.

El Maarouf, M.D., Belghazi, T., & El Maarouf, F. (2021). COVID– 19: A Critical Ontology of the present. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 53(1), 71-89.

Elassar, A. (2020, April 4). A pandemic thriller, once rejected by publishers for being unrealistic, is now getting a wide release. CNN.

Felson, M., Jiang, S. and Xu, Y. (2020). Routine activity effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on burglary in Detroit, March, 2020. Crime Science, 9(10), 1-7.

Foucault, M. (1990). The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. Vintage Books. (Original work published 1978).

Foucault, M. (1995). Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. (A. Sheridan, Trans.). Vintage Books.

Foucault, M. (2006). Madness and Civilisation. (J. Khalfa, Ed.; J. Murphy & J. Khalfa, Trans.). Routledge. (Original work published 1964).

Foucault, M. (2009). Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at The Collège De France, 1977–78. (G. Burchell, Trans.). Palgrave MacMillan. (Original work published 2007).

Garrett, L. (1994). The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World out of Balance. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

GITOC. (2020). Crime and Contagion: The impact of a pandemic on organised crime. In Switzerland: Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Gleeson, B. (1999). Can technology overcome the disabling city? In R. Butler & H. Parr (Eds.), Mind and Body Spaces: Geographies of illness, impairment and disability (pp. 97-116). Routledge.

Haslam, C. (2020). Ageing and Connectedness. In J. Jetten, S. D. Reicher, S. A. Haslam, & T. Cruwys (Eds.), Together Apart: The Psychology of COVID-19 (pp. 64-68). London: Sage.

Horton, R. (2020). Offline: COVID-19—a crisis of power. The Lancet, 396(10260), p. 1383.

Lilleker, D., Coman, I. A., Gregor, M., & Novelli, E. (Eds.). (2021). Political Communication and COVID-19: Governance and Rhetoric in Times of Crisis. Routledge.

May, P. (2020). Lockdown. Riverrun books.

Mbembe, A. (2020 April 13). The Universal Right to Breathe. (C. Shread, Trans). Critical Inquiry. Retrieved from

Morse, S. A., & Meyer, R. F. (2017). Viruses and Bioterrorism. Reference Module in Life Sciences, B978-0-12-809633-8.11007-6, 1-8.

Niles, S. (2017). 28 Days Later: The Aftermath. London: Fox Atomic Comics.

Payne, B.K. (2020). Criminals work from home during pandemics too: a public health approach to respond to fraud and crimes against those 50 and above. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 45, 563-577.

Peters, M. A., Jandrić, P. & McLaren, P. (2020). Viral modernity? epidemics, infodemics, and the ‘bioinformational’ paradigm. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 1-23.

Pieterse, J. N. (2021). Patterns, confluence, regions. In Jan N. Pieterse, H. Lim, & H. Khondker (Eds.), COVID- 19 and Governance: Crisis Reveals (pp. 1-11). London: Routledge.

Purcell, E. (2020). Iris Marion Young’s city of difference. In S. M. Meagher, S. Noll, & J. S. Biehl (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of the City (pp. 101-109). Routledge.

Ren, X. (2020). Pandemic and lockdown: a territorial approach to COVID-19 in China, Italy and the United States. Eurasian Geography and Economics, 61(4-5), 423-434.

Saint-Bonnet, F. (2001). L’état d’exception. Presses Universitaires de France.

Scaggs, J. (2005). Crime Fiction. Routledge.

Sfetcu, N. (2020). Biopolitics in the COVID-19 pandemic. SetThings.

Thomson, R. G. (2017). Extraordinary bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. Columbia University Press.

Tuan, Y. (2001). Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. University of Minnesota Press. (Original work published 1977)

Worthington, H. (2011). Key Concepts in Crime Fiction. Palgrave Macmillan.

Young, I. M, (2000). Inclusion and Democracy. Oxford University Press.

Žižek, S. (2020a). PANDEMIC! COVID-19 Shakes the World. OR Books.

Žižek, S. (2020b). PANDEMIC! 2: Chronicles of a Time Lost. OR Books.




How to Cite

Karmakar, G., & Sarkar, J. (2021). Virus and Visible Reality: Biopolitics, Crime, and Disability in Peter May’s Lockdown. Journal of Narrative and Language Studies, 9(18), 306–323. Retrieved from