Introduction and Session 1 | Pandemic, Creating a Usable Past: Epidemic History, COVID-19, and the Future of Health -
Friday, May 8, 2020 | 9 - 10:30 a.m.
Introduction and Session 1 | Explaining Epidemics: The Past in the Present
Decades ago, in the early days of the AIDS crisis, historian Charles Rosenberg wrote “epidemics start at a moment in time, proceed on a stage limited in space and duration, following a plot line of increasing revelatory tension, move to a crisis of individual and collective character, then drift toward closure.” In the course of epidemics, societies grappled with sudden and unexpected mortality and also returned to fundamental questions about core social values. “Epidemics,” Rosenberg wrote, “have always provided occasion for retrospective moral judgment.” (“What is an Epidemic?”) This introductory panel features a discussion on these and other features of past epidemics – cholera, AIDS, plague, influenza, and so on – and their implications for understanding the unfolding COVID-19 crisis.