Wheelchair Accessibility
Sign language interpretation

About the event

Watch the video of this event here:

The Covid-19 pandemic laid bare the cracks in our social contract, both locally and nationally, yet it also renewed interest in civic engagement and rearticulated our common purpose. An examination of the diverse ordeals of New Yorkers prompts questions about the relationship between local health infrastructures, the American federal system, and our democratic society.

Humanities New York, in partnership with the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center, presents a conversation with Merlin Chowkwanyun and Celina Su. This discussion will focus on the history of public health policies in New York City, the divergent experiences among different demographics within distinct neighborhoods during the pandemic, and how public health crises can both trouble and renew democratic society.

This event is free and open to all. The building and venue are wheelchair accessible and this event will be ASL interpreted by SignNexus.

About the Speakers

Merlin Chowkwanyun

Merlin Chowkwanyun is the Donald Gemson Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University. He is the author of All Health Politics is Local: Community Battles for Medical Care and Environmental Health and is now working on a book, Who Dies?, to be published by W.W. Norton, which re-assesses how to think about the non-biomedical determinants of health. He is also the Principal Investigator on ToxicDocs.org, an NSF-funded repository that uses novel data science methods to make available millions of once-secret documents on industrial poisons. He currently serves on an Expert Advisory Committee for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on structural racism.

Celina Su

Celina Su is the Marilyn J. Gittell Chair in Urban Studies and a Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York. Her work focuses on everyday struggles for collective governance; her current book project centering radical democracy, Budget Justice: Racial Solidarities & Politics From Below, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press. Celina has served on New York City's participatory budgeting Steering Committee since its inception in 2011. Her publications include Streetwise for Book Smarts: Grassroots Organizing and Education Reform in the Bronx (Cornell University Press) and pieces in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, n+1, and elsewhere.

About the series

This event launches a series of public discussions around the city, to be held in neighborhoods where the local community’s relationship with public health practitioners and elected officials may be very different - close or distant to power, in agreement or conflict. Any non-profit organization in New York City that identifies a facilitator is eligible to apply to host one of these conversations, which include a toolkit and grant funding. Applications will be available on our website on April 1st.

This event and the following Community Conversations programs are generously supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

About Humanities New York

Using dialogue, reflection, and critical thinking, Humanities New York applies the humanities to strengthen democratic society. Founded in 1975, Humanities New York is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and is the sole statewide proponent of public access to the humanities. HNY is a private 501(c)3, tax-exempt organization.

*Building Entrance Policy and COVID-19 Info and Safety Guidance: Face masks and full vaccination are not required but encouraged. Weekday visitors to the Graduate Center’s 365 Fifth Avenue campus no longer have to show proof of vaccination or negative PCR tests at the lobby desk. They just need to show a government-issued picture ID and sign in at the security desk. To enter the Graduate Center, CUNY students, faculty, and staff are required to provide proof of their COVID-19 vaccination through the Cleared4 platform. For more information, please see Building Entry Policy, and the COVID-19 Info and Safety Guidance page for the CUNY Graduate Center.

This event is organized and sponsored by Humanities New York, and is co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, Public Programs, and the Gittell Urban Studies Collective at the CUNY Graduate Center, and the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.