2020 Presentations (Communicative Events)
Care for the Polis: Listening to Covid-19: Oral Histories of New York in Pandemic (9.23.20)
The COVID-19 pandemic is the gravest infectious disease crisis the United States has faced since the Influenza pandemic of 1918, and we fear that it will not be the last. This panel will feature the work that a team of sociologists, oral historians, and anthropologists at Columbia University’s INCITE and the Oral History Archives at Columbia is developing to archive and document New York City’s experience of the pandemic.
New York City was the early epicenter of this pandemic in the United States because of its international connections and the local density of its social life. The virus spreads most intensely in households, workplaces, and neighborhoods. In this panel, project members Denise Milstein and Ryan Hagen, will explain some of the early oral histories they conducted as the pandemia hit hard in the Spring and Summer of 2020 and the conclusions that they have drawn from them thereafter. Their growing archive focuses on New York—a city of neighborhoods—to illuminate and document the social structure of the pandemic. They will discuss the particular methods of oral history, the role of storytelling and diary writing in public experiences of health, and how this form of social research and humanistic reflection can help us understand relationships between health, the city, and social inequity—relationships made ever so urgent in times of pandemia and uniquely captured in the voices of those who lived through the period.