We are currently experiencing one of the most disruptive pandemics in modern history. The outbreak of COVID-19 that was first recorded in Wuhan, China and quickly spread across the globe has resulted in nearly 3.7 million confirmed cases to date and more than a quarter-million deaths. Where we stand now, how many it will infect or kill worldwide, how long it will continue, and when—if ever—life will go back to normal are still uncertain. What we know for sure is that this is a pivotal moment and that we are experiencing a historic event that will transform our societies both profoundly and irreversibly. As we wade into this new age of pandemics, it is critical to rethink how we write the history of pandemics. With a conviction that the past helps us to understand the present and the present should help us to rethink the past, we will turn to the legacy of past plagues. This conversation will take stock of the lasting legacies of past plagues because they continue to shape the way we think about new pandemics. In particular, it will address persistent problems, such as European exceptionalism, triumphalism, and epidemiological orientalism that are not only ubiquitous in plague studies, but also staples of public opinion about pandemics, past and present.
Nükhet Varlık, Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University–Newark
A. Tunç Şen, Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University
Free and open to the public, however registration is required.