Illness-Thought-Activism: From HIV/AIDS to COVID-19

Gran Fury, SILENCE=DEATH, 1987, neon

I’m excited to be teaching a seminar in the Narrative Medicine MS program at Columbia this October called Illness-Thought-Activism: From HIV/AIDS to COVID-19. I think it’s kinda relevant.

Here’s the course description and syllabus.

This course will explore the conjunction illness-thought-activism in time. In particular, we will focus our investigations on the medical, political, and aesthetic responses to the HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics. We will use the historical example of the emergence of HIV/AIDS and the increasing politicization of the illness as a lens through which to examine the ongoing contemporary emergence of COVID-19. We will explore how these illnesses are treated in a variety of texts—medical, media, and activist documents, as well as literature, film, comics, and other forms of creative expression. In the most general terms, we are interested in being, doing, and becoming in relation to illness experiences and events, therapeutic thought and practices, and clinical and caring institutions and spaces. We will explore biopolitical issues, including the social determinants of health and structural violence that means some people are at greater risk for illness and premature death than others. Some of our organizing questions for the semester include: why and how is illness political?; what factors impact health?; what constitutes good care?; and how can we better deliver care? 

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