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Covid, History, and the Medical Humanities. Annual Meeting of the Swiss Society for the History of Medicine and Sciences

26.11.2021 - 09:00 to 17:30 Add to calendar

Recent experiences in the 2020/2021 coronavirus pandemic have challenged our views of medicine, science, and society. Although the history of medicine has a tradition of critical engagement with the medical sciences, the past year drew the attention of the wider public to the weak spots of our health care systems.

As a result of the pandemic, science and medicine have been pushed to the foreground of public perception and assumed a central role in dealing with the pandemic. Scientific disciplines such as virology and epidemiology have seen public interest explode. Also, disciplines such as history of medicine, which offer reflection and means of orientation in a global pandemic have seen unprecedented interest. Our one-day conference aims to explore the implications of the pandemic for the history of medicine in the context of the wider goal of strengthening the voices of the Medical Humanities.

The pandemic has highlighted global health inequalities, vaccine development and the complexities of the interplay between industry, the state and the population. Renewed interest has focused on the history and relevance of vaccine-skepticism. The intense use of social media shines a light on emerging non-scientific if not alternative world-views. How can medical history address such current issues? How can the history of medicine keep pace with current developments?

But the pandemic has also wreaked havoc on normal research plans with conferences cancelled, archival access delayed and a lot of isolation for researchers particularly affecting the younger generation. On the occasion of the annual meeting of the SGGMN (SSMHS), we encourage young voices in the field of medical history to share how the pandemic has shaped their own projects, and to present their visions on future developments, as well as on the possible outreach of the discipline in the context of the Medical Humanities.

The main part of the meeting consists of contributions from early research scholars complemented by a round-table discussion on visions for the future of history of medicine and science in Switzerland. We conclude the annual meeting with the Guggenheim- Schnurr-Lecture 2021 (Bruno Strasser, Geneva).

Covid certificate required. For hybrid option please register with Leander Diener (


9:00–9:15 Introduction

9:15–10:15 Panel I (moderation Julia Engelschalt)
9:15–9:45 Séveric Yersin (Basel), Ecrire l’histoire du contrôle des maladies infectieuses durant le Covid-19 et la Fièvre porcine africaine. Un dialogue entre opportunités, difficultés et nouvelles perspectives
9:45–10:15 David Robertson (Princeton/Geneva), Histories of the Herd: Veterinarians, Bacteriologists, and the Concept of Herd Immunity

10:15–10:30 Coffee Break

10:30–11:30 Panel II (moderation Monique Ligtenberg)
10:30–11:00 Julia Engelschalt (Zürich), The Great Obsession. Tropicality in U.S.-American Colonial Medicine and Domestic Public Health, 1898-1924
11:00–11:30 Léonard Dolivo (Lausanne), Covid-19 and desire for history

11:30–12:00 Flurin Condrau/Leander Diener/Hubert Steinke, Centenary of the SGGMN

12:00-12:15 Awarding of Sigerist prize

12:15–12:45 General Assembly
12:45–13:30 Lunch

13:30–14:30 Panel III (moderation Jakob Odenwald)
13:30–14:00 Izel Demirbas/Magaly Tornay (Bern), Geschichte der Medizinethik in der Schweiz: Die Arbeit der Schweizerischen Akademie der Medizinischen Wissenschaften in Bezug auf aktuelle Fragen
14:00–14:30 Clara Dobbelstein (Köln), The reader becoming an expert? Tendencies of scientification reflected by metaphors to depict Covid-19 and AIDS in two German newspapers

14:30–14:45 Coffee break

14:45–15:45 Panel IV (moderation Sarah Scheidmantel)
14:45–15:15 Johanna Lessing (Göttingen), On the Productivity of Preliminary Knowledge: Medical Historical Exhibiting and the Pandemic
15:15–15:45 Tizian Zumthurm (Luxemburg), The Historian as Archivist: Crowdsourced Corona Collections

15:45–16:30 Panel discussion, Covid, History, and the Medical Humanities (Martina King/Hubert Steinke/Flurin Condrau/Vincent Barras – moderation and input by Lisa Haushofer/Felix Rietmann)

16:45–17:30 Guggenheim-Schnurr Lecture: Bruno Strasser (Geneva), Epidemic Technologies: Masks, Medicine and Modernity

Event organizer: 
Lehrstuhl für Medizingeschichte


Rämistrasse 69


Leander Diener
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Event cost: 
0.00 CHF

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Registration not necessary