Health and Medicine, Culture and Society: Crossroads in a Liberal Arts Education (Fall 2022)

A semester-long project organized by Kathleen Pierce, Art, and Suzanne Zhang Gottschang, Anthropology

Project Description

The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered longstanding footholds of racism, racialization, and xenephobia in public health and medicine hypervisible. Early news articles on cases in the United States disproportionately featured images of Asian and Asian-American people. Poorly planned and communicated travel bans stoked xenophobia. And former President Trump's perpetual framing of the virus as connected to China amplified racism and violence against Asians and Asian-Americans. The roots of this system, however, are both deep and rhizomatic in their spread. This semester-long project recognizes our current moment as an opportune one, especially as we navigate new terrain in the college classroom as the pandemic continues to unfold, to examine past and present ways that systems of power manifest in uneven ground upon which people must attend to their health and negotiate medical systems. Building on the work of “Racialized Medicine, Past and Present” and “Democratizing Health”--a series of short-term projects held at the Kahn in 2020-2022--Health and Medicine, Culture and Society: Crossroads in a Liberal Arts Education carves out extended space for scholars across the sciences, arts and humanities, and social sciences to imagine and concretize new modes of research and teaching about these topics within the small liberal arts college. We especially aim to emphasize the generative potential of the spaces between and among our disciplinary expertise--the intellectual and pedagogical opportunities only possible through cross-disciplinary conversations. 

Health and Medicine, Culture and Society: Crossroads in a Liberal Arts Education allows us to ask: what might STEM faculty who deploy images in their teaching and research learn about the dissemination and reception of visual information from scholars of visual culture, and what might scholars of visual culture, in turn, learn about the production of scientific images? What could scientists who seek to explore the biological basis of neurological development learn from social science research on child rearing practices outside the US? And, as faculty across STEM disciplines increasingly seek to attend to histories of racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression in their fields in their teaching, how might we call on the expertise of other scholar-teachers on campus?

We position Health and Medicine, Culture and Society: Crossroads in a Liberal Arts Education as a crucible for new thinking about cross-disciplinary teaching and research about health and medicine, including continuing to elaborate ideas generated during the short-term projects. But more than this, we hope to elucidate points of connection already unfolding at Smith and the Five Colleges as well as possibilities embedded within the mission and structure of the small liberal arts college. These connections might range from the theoretical and the methodological to the curricular and the material possibility of sharing expertise in the classroom. Such connections not only demonstrate the reciprocal value of thinking about the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities together, but also necessarily amplify and expand thinking about identity, equity, and inclusion, particularly as they relate to health and medicine, across disciplines. We invite participants from STEM, the humanities, and the humanistic social sciences to join in a semester-long conversation, in Fall 2022, to collaboratively imagine and develop pathways in our curriculum and our research to bring about substantive engagement with health and medicine in the twenty-first century. Such interventions might include a symposium that brings new voices to campus while also calling attention to work already being done within the Five College community; they might also include efforts to more explicitly thread programming about health and medicine into both curricular and extra curricular spaces at Smith, sustaining a scholarly and pedagogical culture attentive to the intersection of health, medicine, society, and culture. 

Participants need not have participated in the previous related short-term Kahn projects to apply.

Apply for a Faculty Fellowship in Health and Medicine, Culture and Society. (The Student Fellowship application is available here.)