Democratizing Health I (short-term, October 2021)

Organized by Suzanne Gottschang, Anthropology, and Kathleen Pierce, Art

Project Description

Democratizing Health I aims to build on the work of the spring 2021 short-term project, Racialized Medicine, Past and Present, to imagine possibilities for future programming, resources, and curriculum development. Racialized Medicine, Past and Present centered the COVID-19 pandemic as a jumping off point for thinking critically about how racism, racialization, and xenophobia have found footholds in public health crises and responses of the past, and how these processes have also made their way, via structural racism and other systems of power, into many of the ways we continue to describe and respond to these crises. Our starting point for these discussions was work in the medical humanities that calls attention to histories and presents of racism and racialization in medicine and science, including the ways these processes intersect with gender, sexuality, ability, and class. Participants from disciplines in STEM, the humanities, and the social sciences forged new ways of thinking about teaching and researching such materials, especially emphasizing the value of collaborative and interdisciplinary connection, around a series of case studies. These cases included: the historical and continued erasure of Black and brown skin from dermatological education; maternal mortality in the United States and its outsized effects on women of color, especially Black women; and a comparison of the tenor of public health messaging around COVID-19 in the United States, Japan, and Vietnam. Bringing our disciplinary perspectives to these cases opened space to imagine future cooperative models of teaching, researching, and learning, while also establishing the wide-ranging expertise and experiences of faculty across a myriad of departments at Smith and in the Five Colleges. Some potential directions discussed in this workshop included developing a resource guide and directory of scholars in the Five Colleges who research and teach in these areas, crowdsourcing platforms to share bibliography, syllabi, assignments, organizing symposia, and creating other ways to network for collaboration in teaching and research.

In Democratizing Health I, we will leverage our work from the spring session to develop next steps to support research and teaching about medicine and public health across and between disciplines. Our focus on democratizing health encompasses health inequities in its many forms and considers broader political frames, from the local to the global. We invite participants from STEM, the arts and the humanities, and the social sciences to join in a conversation where we focus on results-oriented outcomes. Our hope is to extend the reach of this project to include more scholars with related interests as we consider potential outcomes and directions. Participants need not have participated in the spring 2021 program to attend.