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COVID-related Courses

How are MHS classes addressing the pandemic and protests?


NEW COURSE! HUM 1610.01: COVID and Society

Fall 2020, TR 2:20pm – 3:35pm

Instructors: Jonathan Metzl, David Wright, Caroline R. Williams, and Celina Callahan-Kapoor

The COVID-19 pandemic set into motion a series of events that will reshape society in lasting ways, from how we live, to how we learn, to the future of jobs and careers, to the issues about which we protest and aim to change, to the movies we watch, the music we hear, and the stories we read. These changes will be shaped by innovations from fields including technology, medicine, architecture, humanities, politics, science, and economics. Ultimately, the COVID-era will affect how we think about ourselves, and our relationships with others, our sense of social and racial justice, and our place in the world for years to come.

This interactive new class will explore the pandemic’s impact on our past, present, and future, as told through the narratives of thought and opinion leaders. We’ll engage with politicians, artists, protesters, activists, doctors and scientists, educators, musicians, and many others to better understand how the pandemic moment has impacted what they do in their daily lives, and their sense of what the future holds. Along the way, we’ll explore some of deep questions of the pandemic era—e.g., How can we best address racial inequities and structural racism? How can we regain trust in science and in global and public health? How did masks become political symbols? What works of literature and art best capture the moment? How will the pandemic change the future of jobs and careers? Will nations stay closed? Will touch become taboo? What will become of restaurants? We’ll explore one theme in depth each week through a large, all-group coffee hour with invited guests; breakout discussion sessions, journal clubs, reading groups, and writing salons; and interactive real-world (and COVID-safe) assignments, happenings, and events.

HUM 1610 will count toward the MHS core course, the Medicine, Humanities, and the Arts and the Inequality, Intersectionality, and Health Justice concentration areas, and MHS electives (Replaces Men’s Health). This course will be taught entirely online.


NEW COURSE! HUM 1610.02: Racial Justice

Fall 2020, MW 2:00pm – 3:15pm

Instructors: Jonathan Metzl, Paul Taylor, and Tracy Sharpley-Whiting

What does it mean that a firestorm of anti-racist protest rocked the US during the summer of 2020? Participants in this interdisciplinary humanities course will work together to assemble some resources for answering this question. This collaborative investigation will revolve around four broader framing questions. (1) What does justice mean when it comes to race? (2) How do questions of racial justice relate to police work? (3) What do policing and race have to do with the broader distribution of societal advantages and disadvantages? And how do racialized social distributions relate to the history of the American experiment, and to the prospects for conducting the experiment more successfully? Participants will approach these questions from a range of perspectives, with the expert guidance of guest lecturers and discussants from a variety of disciplines. The assignments will be designed less to promote the mastery of content than to invite intelligent and collaborative engagement with the subject matter. The overarching aim will be to promote the sort of comprehensive understanding that complex social phenomena require and that a liberal arts education makes possible.

HUM 1610.02 will count toward credit in the MHS electives, the Medicine, Humanities, and the Arts and the Inequality, Intersectionality, and Health Justice concentration areas. This course will be taught entirely online.


NEW COURSE! MHS 2333: Policing the Pandemic

Fall 2020, Two sections: MWF 12:40pm – 1:30pm; TR 8:00am – 9:15am

Instructor: JuLeigh Petty

This course examines the COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of policing. How is our health policed by governmental and non-governmental agencies? By medicine and public health experts? How do we police ourselves and others? And in what ways do these practices reflect and reinforce systems of injustice? What are alternate frameworks for improving collective wellbeing? A cursory scan of the news reveals the centrality of policing practices and language in how we make sense of and respond to the pandemic. For example, the public health authority of states arises from police powers granted in the U.S. Constitution. Likewise, commentators across the political spectrum worry about the rise of a police state in critiques of local and state social distancing rules. COVID denialists and vaccine resistors insult those following medical advice as being controlled by the thought police. During the pandemic, self-policing, a strategy for maintaining control without explicit reliance on law, has been widespread and ranged from civil engagement to vigilantism. “Virus vigilantes” posted on social media calling out neighbors not strictly following state and local COVID-19 orders. Such efforts often failed to recognize structural challenges to complying with public health advice, and some has been racist and xenophobic. Despite fears of a “police state” and notwithstanding a few dramatic examples (e.g. the arrest of a minister in Florida, police breaking up weddings in New Jersey), police have made relatively few pandemic-related arrests. However, police behavior shifted center stage in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter protests; no longer just policing pandemic, police violence becomes the pandemic.

Two sections are offered in fall 2020. MHS 2333 may count toward the Health Policies and Economies and Inequality, Intersectionality and Health justice concentration areas and electives. AXLE: SBS 



See Course Catalogue for a list of MHS requirements filled by these courses.


MHS 1111: First-Year Writing Seminar: Medicine, Health, and the Body

Fall 2020, W 1:00pm – 4:00pm

Instructor: Caroline R. Williams

How do we tell the story of a body? How do we read other people’s stories on their bodies? These are universal, timeless questions for every writer, but in the current state of the world, a global community beset by pandemic, and an American national dialogue newly suffused with conversations about the legacies of slavery, jim crow and systemic oppression, the question of how the body is read, and how the body’s story is told has become even more important. In this class we will address these questions through a literary lens, looking at works of poetry, prose, fiction and creative nonfiction in which the body and its questions are the central concern. This semester, the course will have a particular and timely focus on the black body in America — from the way the world seeks to write on or impose narratives on black bodies to the way those who live in black bodies choose to articulate that lived experience. This course will be an exercise in empathy and sympathy, and one that will seek to encourage students to look beyond the course’s texts into their own experiences, culminating in a final creative project that will invite them to share their own stories.


MHS 1920: Politics of Health

Fall 2020, TR 9:35am – 10:50am

Instructor: Celina Callahan-Kapoor

This course provides students with skills from social science and the humanities to engage in rigorous and creative understandings of health and disease. Topically, this course covers pharmaceutical management of chronic conditions, HIV/AIDS; environmental disasters and health; COVID-19 and SARS; immigration, citizenship, and access to healthcare; racialization and disease; and historical trauma. Course materials draw from a broad range of perspectives: academic articles, popular media, and former students’ written work; documentaries and TV series; and podcasts and interviews. Throughout the semester, students work individually and in small groups to develop the skill of qualitative interviewing. At the end of each unit, students conduct an informal interview of a friend or family about the topics covered in the unit. By the end of the course, students will be able to address the following questions: What is health and why do we believe in a particular definition of health? Which institutions define health, and how do they do so? How do definitions of health impact people’s day-to-day lives and life trajectories? Through what processes do the definitions of health change over time? How do nations, media, disasters, and expert science combine to define health, risk, and responsibility? How can we use what we learn in this course to make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic and social, economic, and political unrest across the world?


MHS 1950: Theories of the Body

Fall 2020, TR 11:10am – 12:25pm

Instructor: Aimi Hamraie

How can histories of the “healthy” and “normal” body, eugenics, immigration, and civil rights inform our understanding of the COVID-19 epidemic? How might these histories shape our theories of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and social protest? And how can COVID-related projects of mutual aid and solidarity shape our understanding of biomedical ethics? Theories of the Body will address these three questions through close readings of historical and philosophical texts, coupled with digital projects. Students will learn to situate their own bodily experiences of space, technology, care, and confinement to explore the prevailing social issues of our time.


MHS 2610: Global Health Crises

Fall 2020, 2:20pm – 3:35pm

Instructor: Tara McKay

What is global health? Where do global health disease priorities come from, and how do the ways that we understand disease shape how we respond to it? Despite decades of warnings around climate-related acceleration of animal-to-human disease transmission and increasing devastation from disasters, why are global and national government organizations still so unprepared when crises occur? What happens when good ideas and good intentions go wrong or politics get in the way? This course draws on research from anthropology, sociology, political science, and public health to examine how politics, structural racism, and the very process of “doing science” have shaped our understandings of and responses to some of the world’s most challenging health issues, from HIV/AIDS and malaria, to measles, obesity, depression, Ebola, and COVID-19.


MHS 3450: Mental Illness Narratives

Fall 2020, R 9:35am – 12:05pm

Instructor: Courtney Peterson

This course examines personal experiences of mental illness. Using memoir, film, and spoken word we begin to understand how individuals of different genders, races, socioeconomic statuses and ages manage mental health challenges. A portion of the course explores mental illness during a pandemic with special attention to isolation, access to care, telehealth, and disproportionate effects on some communities. Topics covered include bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, and PTSD.


MHS 3890.03: Special Topics – Health Care Under Trump Admin

Fall 2020, MW 4:10pm – 5:25pm

Instructor: Gilbert Gonzales

This course provides an overview of the public health and health care delivery systems under the Trump administration. Today’s health care professionals, policymakers, and administrators face evolving social, political, and economic climates and emergencies, such as rising health care costs, a decentralized and fragile health care system, wide health inequities, and the COVID-19 global pandemic. In order to prepare students for immediate careers in health care and public health, this course introduces students to the U.S. health care system (with some comparisons to health systems in other countries) and how President Trump and his administration has changed U.S. health care and health policy. Topics include the history and role of public health and health care providers; trends and challenges within health care industries; comparative health systems; health inequities; and the COVID-19 pandemic.


MHS 4010: Psychiatry, Culture, and Globalization

Fall 2020, M 3:00pm – 5:15pm

Instructor: Dominique Behague

What happens when Western psychiatry and neuroscience go global? Do those who suffer gain access to much-needed treatment or does the exportation of a Euro-American model of the mind and brain undermine local ways of knowing and responding to emotional suffering? In recent years, these questions have captured the attention of global health institutions, policymakers, psychiatrists, and mental health advocates. This course will introduce students to key debates in the field, from the overuse of psychotropic medications to reliance on the psychiatric hospital as a carceral space to the rise of grassroots patient-led movements that advocate for alternative forms of care and more attention to questions of racial, gendered and economic inequities. Students will read interdisciplinary literature that considers the complex biological, social, and political causes of psychological ill-health, and they will learn about how different communities, cultures and professional groups conceptualize mental suffering and engage in questions of accountability and governance. The course will delve into the many ways COVID-19 is not only exacerbating mental suffering and social inequities but also providing new opportunities for intersecting racial justice and mental advocacy groups to take the production of knowledge about mental health into their own hands. Students will apply theoretical knowledge to individual- and group-led research projects on topics of their choice. Practical sessions will build skills in data collection, critical analysis, networking, and policy-relevant presentation of research results.


MHS 6300: Social Studies of Science and Medicine

Fall 2020, R 4:10pm – 6:40pm

Instructor: Laura Stark

What counts as “true” knowledge and who gets to decide? These questions have become newly urgent as the Covid-19 pandemic unfolds in the age of fake news. Science & Technology Studies (STS) draws on methods from anthropology, history, and sociology, as well as other fields, to explore how technologies, social groups, institutions, and other factors shape power relations that affect what we know—and do not know—in the human and natural sciences. This seminar will introduce graduate students to the most up-to-date questions and debates in STS with an emphasis on the Covid-19 pandemic. The seminar will accomplish three goals. It will introduce students to the field of STS in relation to current debates on Covid-19; train students in qualitative research methods; and allow students to create a tangible, publicly available resource that can serve as evidence of skills and knowledge gained from the course (e.g., to share with potential employers or selection committees in the future). Graduate-level class.