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The Coronavirus Crisis: a humanities perspective by Dr Ida Milne

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Our European History Lecturer Dr Ida Milne today wrote a blog post for the Irish Humanities Alliance on ‘The Coronavirus Crisis: a humanities perspective’ reflecting on the useful work humanities scholars have done on similar crises, and will in the future on this one. Can work on past epidemics help medical workers, governments and society in general get to grips with what is happening at present?

‘As we analyse past epidemics using the methods of historiology or sociology, we bring a different sort of understanding of these diseases, compared to the work done by scientists or medical professionals. In my work on the social, medical, economic and political history of the 1918-19 or ‘Spanish’ (more scapegoating) influenza pandemic in Ireland, I became particularly engaged with Harvard historian of medicine Charles Rosenberg’s argument that the way societies develop an understanding of emerging large-scale epidemics of infectious disease has a consistent dramaturgy, a pattern which can be applied to just about all epidemic crises. He sees epidemic disease as having this social understanding, alongside its biological entity. As the Wuhan crisis continues to unfold, it plays almost uncannily into Rosenberg’s dramaturgy framework, and I thought it might be helpful to bring this work to a wider audience.’

To read the full blog post visit the Irish Humanities Blog.


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