Announcing the Medical Humanities and Pandemic Urbanisms Event Series

January 21, 2022 – Topics of Interest

To mark the launch of the Medical Humanities major at the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, we are hosting an inaugural virtual series, “Medical Humanities and Pandemic Urbanisms,” which will serve as an essential rallying point for Columbia faculty, current students, and alumni of the Medicine, Literature and Society track. Featuring scholars, activists and artists from a range of fields—from epidemiology to science fiction to urban planning—the series will both illustrate the imaginative possibilities of the Medical Humanities, while also grounding its activities in the community-building work of students at Columbia University in the City of New York.

Medical Humanities engages with humanities and social sciences disciplines like history, English, anthropology, and sociology, as well as scientific fields like biology, genetics, neuroscience and biomedical engineering to emphasize the vulnerability of human bodies, the heterogeneity of anti-essentialist approaches to biology, and the social and cultural determinants of health. The work of students in fields like reproductive justice, gender studies and ethnic studies benefits from an understanding of biologic concepts such as gametogenesis, CRISPR technology, and mRNA platforms. Meanwhile, the study of science and medicine benefits from a sensitivity to rhetoric, structure, narrative and ambiguity.

Such interdisciplinary thinking has become even more pressing in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which provides an unexpected backdrop for the launch of the Medical Humanities major. Thinking with this context, “Medical Humanities and Pandemic Urbanisms” will take on the challenge of building our community of scholars and students in a virtual, dislocated environment.

The pandemic has laid bare latent circuits of racialization and social differentiation. Living with the virus has posed new questions about the limits of the human, and the risks of social life. As an early epicenter, New York City has been forced to question its contested globality and its dependence on precarious service laborers. Over six weeks, the series will pick up these themes related to New York City and other global metropolises; pandemic urbanisms; race, climate, and housing; and utopian/dystopian imaginaries.

Learn more about our Medical Humanities major here.


Medical Humanities and Pandemic Urbanisms

Upcoming Events:

Mon 1.24.2022 6pm
The Pandemic, Precarity, and Relational Urbanism in Delhi | A Talk with Rohit Negi

Welcome: Rishi Goyal (Columbia University)
Speaker: Rohit Negi (Ambedkar University)
Respondent: Kavita Sivaramakrishnan (Columbia University)

Co-sponsored by The Society of Fellows/Heyman Center for the Humanities.

Past Events:

Tues 3.23.2021 6pm
The Future Repeats Itself:  Historical Roots of Anti-Chinese Animus in the time of COVID

Welcome: Rishi Goyal and Arden Hegele (Columbia University)
Keynote Speaker: Ari Larissa Heinrich (Australian National University)
Respondent: Eugenia Lean (EALAC, Columbia University)
Moderator: Lydia Liu (EALAC and ICLS, Columbia University)
Co-sponsor: Weatherhead East Asian Institute and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
This lecture is also part of our year-long Understanding Systemic Racism series.

Weds. 4.14.2021 6pm
Telling Stories: Medicine and Institutional Racism

Speakers: Bettina Judd (Gender, Women and Sexuality, U Washington), Raymond Givens (Internal Medicine, Columbia University)
Respondent: Matthew Sandler (American Studies, Columbia University)
Moderator: Rita Charon (Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics)
Co-sponsor: Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics

Tues 4.20.2021 6pm
Book Panel: Epidemic Empire: Colonialism, Contagion, and Terror 1817-2020

Author: Anjuli Raza Kolb (English, University of Toronto)
Respondent: Elizabeth Povinelli (Anthropology, Columbia University)
Moderator: Stathis Gourgouris (Comparative Literature, Columbia University)
Co-sponsor: Department of English and Comparative Literature

Tues 4.27.2021 6pm
“Home Sick”: Reimagining Indoor/Outdoor Space in the Pandemic

Speakers: Annmarie Adams (Social Studies of Medicine, McGill University) and Charles Branas (Epidemiology, Columbia University)
Respondent: Laura Kurgan (GSAPP, Columbia University)
Moderator: Reinhold Martin (GSAPP and Buell Center, Columbia University)
Co-sponsor: Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture

Weds 4.28.2021 7:30pm
Urban Precarity and Indigenous Designs

Speakers: Maria John (History, University of Massachusetts Boston) and Río Oxas (Activist, RAHOK)
Respondent: Merlin Chowkwanyun (Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University)
Moderator: Kavita Sivaramakrishnan (Sociomedical Sciences and History, Columbia University)

Tues 5.4.2021 6pm
From Monomyth to Multimyth: BIPOC Children’s Fantasists Discuss Globalism, Possible Futures, and Writing in the Age of Pandemic

Authors: Sayantani DasGupta (ICLS, Columbia University), Carlos Hernandez (English, CUNY), David Bowles (Texas Institute of Letters Governing Council)
Moderator: Neni Panourgiá (Justice-in-Education, Columbia University)

Fri. 5.7.2021 – Sat. 5.8.2021 12:00pm
Invisible Cities: 24-hour Student Design Challenge
Faculty Facilitators: Lan Li (Medical Humanities, Rice University), Anthony Acciavatti (Architecture, Yale University)
Alumni Facilitators: Malvika Jolly ((Special Projects Associate, Brooklyn Rail) and Adam Lee John

Tues 5.11.2021 6pm
Navigating a Pandemic: Between the Social and the Medical

The video recording for this event is now available. Please contact to view. 

Keynote Speaker: Zeynep Tufekci (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Respondent: Rishi Goyal (ICLS, Columbia University)
Moderator: Anupama Rao (ICLS, Columbia University)
Closing Remarks: Arden Hegele and Rishi Goyal

Please email and to request disability accommodations. Advance notice of 10 days is necessary to make arrangements for some accessibility needs.

This series was organized by Rishi Goyal and Arden Hegele.
Cosponsorship has been provided by:
Center for Science and Society
Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture
Weatherhead East Asian Institute
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
Department of English and Comparative Literature
Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics

 The Heyman Center for the Humanities, Room B-101
74 Morningside Drive
New York, NY, 10027
  (212) 854-4541
  (212) 854-3099