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Democracy and Public Health: Experiences in New York City

March 30 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

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About the Event

Humanities New York presents a public humanities event exploring the human and political dimensions of public health. 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. HNY, in partnership with 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.

About the Speakers

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, 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 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 conversation 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.

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March 30
7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
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CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10016 United States
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