As the pandemic of Covid-19 continues in the United States with a terrifying increase in cases and deaths—including 176,309 new cases this past week; 76,000 hospitalizations; and nearly 100,000 deaths—attention has turned in part to the development of vaccines against this deadly disease. Public health leaders, medical researchers, and pharmaceutical companies are struggling to enlist African Americans and Latinx individuals into clinical trials for the new vaccines. However, to date only small percentages of people of color are participating in these trials. The reasons offered by media and health experts focuses on the long-standing mistrust of African Americans of the white dominated health care system. This lecture addresses the consequences of the racialization of "mistrust" for the control of Covid-19 in the United States.
"Acute and the Chronic: Temporalities of Medical Authority in an Epidemic"
In the 1950s, epidemic outbreaks of polio swept across the globe, a debilitating disease that left thousands of children paralysed in its wake. The treatment of polio—respiratory care, surgical interventions, and physiotherapy—intersected with dynamically changing notions of urgency, emergency, and permanency. In this nexus, children, parents, nurses, physical therapists, and iron lung patients played crucial roles in creating, negotiating, and maintaining medical care and knowledge. Doing so, they actively engaged with the framework of state paternalism and the political rhetoric of gender equality. Through the lens of women and children’s agency in treatment at a Hungarian hospital, this talk explores the shifting temporalities of outbreaks, hospital treatment, and the life course of patients to interrogate medical authority and decision-making in epidemic contexts.
Professor Hammonds is the Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science and Professor of African and African American Studies and current chair of the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. She was the first Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity at Harvard University (2005–08). From 2008–13 she served as Dean of Harvard College. She holds honorary degrees from Spelman College and Bates College.
Professor Hammonds’ areas of research include the histories of science, medicine, and public health in the United States; race and gender in science studies; feminist theory and African American history She has published articles on the history of disease, race and science, African American feminism, African-American women and the epidemic of HIV/AIDS and analyses of gender and race in science and medicine. Professor Hammonds’ current work focuses on the intersection of scientific, medical and socio-political concepts of race in the United States. She holds undergraduate degrees in physics from Spelman College, electrical engineering from Ga. Tech and an SM in Physics from MIT. She earned her PhD from Harvard University. She served as a Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer (2003–05), a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and a Visiting Professor at UCLA and at Hampshire College.
Professor Hammonds was named a Fellow of the Association of Women in Science (AWIS) in 2008. She served on the Board of Trustees of Spelman College and currently on the Board of the Arcus Foundation, and the Board of Trustees of Bates College. In 2010 she was appointed to President Barack Obama’s Board of Advisers on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and in 2014 to the President’s Advisory Committee on Excellence in Higher Education for African Americans. She served as a member of the Committee on Equal Opportunity in Science and Engineering (CEOSE), the congressionally mandated oversight committee of the National Science Foundation, the Advisory Committee of the EHR directorate of the NSF, and the Advisory Committee on the Merit Review Process of the National Science Foundation. In 2017 she was appointed to the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine (CWSEM) of the National Academies. She is currently director of the Project on Race & Gender in Science & Medicine at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard. In 2018, Prof. Hammonds was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM).
Dóra Vargha is Senior Lecturer based at the Department of History and the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. She is co-editor of the journal Social History of Medicine. Her work spans from the politics of epidemic management to public health systems and access to therapeutics. She has written on the global infrastructure of diphtheria antitoxin, the politics of vaccination in the Cold War, hospital care of disabled children in communist contexts and about shifting epidemic narratives in historical analysis. Her monograph, Polio Across the Iron Curtain: Hungary's Cold War with an Epidemic (2018) received the biannual book prize of the European Association for the History of Medicine and Health. Vargha has recently been working on a project titled After the End of Disease. Placing epidemic narratives in focus, this research is an interdisciplinary collaboration to think past the conventional narrative and neat epidemic bell-curves to identify, collect, and disseminate different understandings of disease impacts. With funding from the European Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, she is now embarking on a new research project, Socialist Medicine, which explores global health histories from the socialist world’s perspective.
Crisis and Capacity: Perspectives in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Months have passed since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. People have experienced the effects of the virus’ rapid global spread: the politicization of medicine, worldwide shortages of and bidding wars for protective equipment, disputes and uneven public health messaging about prevention and treatments, disproportionate distributions of health risks in populations, and mass mortality. While many issues related to the Covid-19 outbreak are dealt with by scientists and health practitioners—such as the search for treatments and cures—other concerns command the expertise of scholars in the humanities and social sciences.
Developing from the MPIWG's History of Science ON CALL video project, the Institute’s Colloquium 2020/21 therefore facilitates conversations around how humanities and social sciences scholars might deliberately or inadvertently form a long view of critical contemporary issues, aiming to:
Normalize reflexive intellectual discussions about challenging topics about inequalities such as race or gender
Connect to other dialogues within and beyond Berlin about plural histories and sociologies of crises
Ultimately, the program seeks to bring to the fore various insights into local, regional, and international cooperation and academic work prompted by Covid-19.