21H.000: The History of Now Plagues and Pandemics Edition

Friday, December 04, 2020 at 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Virtual Event

This class exposes students to the study of history for its own sake and also for a deeper understanding of the present and the future.  We explore current events in a historical perspective from the vantage point of a series of MIT and guest speakers discussing their research in the context of current national and global events.  For Fall 2020, the course will focus on the history of infectious disease.  We will look transnationally and across discipline at how plagues and pandemics have made an impact on human and non-human history.  The course will have a roundtable format, meeting for one-hour sessions each week with brief presentations by the invited speakers followed by Q&A with enrolled students.  The course will also be broadcast live as a webinar each week for the benefit of interested members of the larger MIT community and the public.  A list of short, optional readings related to each week’s sessions is available upon request. Please contact kalopes @mit.edu if you would like to register for the webinar. 

MIT Faculty Coordinators/Moderators:  Sana Aiyar (History), Dwai Bannerjee (STS), Kate Brown (STS), Malick Ghachem (History), and Elizabeth Wood (History)

A list of short, optional readings related to each week’s sessions can be found HERE.


Fall 2020 Schedule of Meetings


September 11: What is a “Pandemic”?

Kavita Sivaramakrishnan, Columbia University

Sylvia Hood Washington, Environmental Health Research Associates, LLC


September 18: Race and Pandemics

Adia Benton, Northwestern University

Kathryn Olivarius, Stanford University


October 2: Cities and the Plague

Cindy Ermus, University of Texas at San Antonio

Martin Melosi, University of Houston


October 9: Immigration and Contagion

Nayan Shah, University of Southern California

Natalia Molina, University of California at San Diego


October 23: Demography and Biopower

Anne McCants, MIT

John Brown, Clark University


October 30: Public Health, Biopower, and Inequality

Carlo Caduff, King’s College London

Amy Moran-Thomas, MIT


November 13: Plants and Plagues

Jean Beagle Ristaino, North Carolina State University

John McNeill, Georgetown University

Tristan Brown, MIT


November 20: Sovereignties, Plagues, and Policing

Mary Augusta Brazelton, University of Cambridge

Laura Spinney, independent writer and

science journalist


December 4: Premodern Pandemics

Michael McCormick, Harvard University

Nükhet Varlik, University of South Carolina


Event Type


Events By Interest

Academic, Health/Wellness, General

Events By Audience

Public, MIT Community, Students, Alumni, Faculty, Staff

Events By School

School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS)



Contact Email


Add to my calendar

Recent Activity