About 800 days have passed since the World Health Organization elevated the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease to a pandemic. What followed were profound disruptions in social, economic, and political life in every society, an ongoing cascade of tumult made all the more unsettling by the public murder of George Floyd and other Black people in the US. These dual examples of social turmoil – a global, almost totalizing pandemic and an eruption of protest against racial injustice – have exposed what historian Thomas Sugrue has called the “preexisting social conditions” that have resulted in disparate amounts of suffering across lines of race, class, nationality, and other categories. What have we learned through these many days of profound unrest? How do we discern this long moment in the longer fetch of history? And what might a meditation on this time together chart for our collective future?
This year, in lieu of its annual Distinguished Lecture, the Center for Medical Humanities turns these questions over to a distinguished panel of UCI scholars to help us find answers to the vexations of our shared social life. Through this dialogue, we invite members of the UCI community and beyond to find insight and even pierce glimmers of hope through the murk of these last 800 days. Join us, engage with these eminent and wise thinkers, and share your thoughts in how we can all come to new understanding of what we’ve been through and where we might go.
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Dr. Andrew R. Highsmith is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine.
Dr. Douglas Haynes is the inaugural Chief Diversity Officer and Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and Professor of Modern European History and African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine.
Dr. Juliet McMullin is Professor of Family Medicine and Director of the Program in Medical Humanities and the Arts in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Irvine.
Dr. Tiffany Willoughby-Herard is Associate Professor of African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine, and also Professor Extraordinarius in the Chief Albert Luthuli Research Research Chair in the College of Human Sciences at the University of South Africa.
Dr. S. Ama Wray is Professor of Dance at the University of California, Irvine and is the creator of Embodiology®, an award-winning neo-African improvisation practice.