New & Notable

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Our Writers beyond Synapsis

The (Semi-Hidden) History of Queer Pregnancy in Literature

Former writer-in – residence Alicia Andrzejewski writes on Literary Hub about “Torrey Peters’s Detransition, Baby, and the Future of Queer Families.” 

COVID in U.S. Prisons

Megan Swartzfager created an interactive map to tell the statistical and human story of COVID-19 in prisons through, in the language of the website, “data from The Marshall Project, Prison Policy Initiative’s State Profiles, various news sources that are linked in the map, and personal communications with incarcerated people. ” Among the linked stories is the  Justice-in-Education Program: COVID-19 special issue.

“What We Can Learn from the Literature of Past Pandemics”

Synapsis editor Arden Hegele discusses teaching a narrative medicine course via distance learning, asking How do the characteristic tools of the humanities—historical reflection, critical inquiry and attention to feeling and justice—help us make sense of what we’re experiencing? 

This article is part of a Columbia News series, titled Lessons Learned, which invites the Columbia community to reflect on the pandemic and the insights they have gained from their COVID-19 experience.

Humanities in the Emergency Room: CHCI in Conversation with Synapsis Editor Dr. Rishi Goyal

While New York City was the epicenter of the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic, Rishi Goyal served as Attending Physician in the Emergency Department at Columbia University Medical Center. Every day, he and his colleagues tended to and cared for patients struck down by this incurable illness as mortalities throughout the city, and throughout the United States, overwhelmed and exposed systems of medical care in America.

At the same time, Goyal is a PhD in English and Comparative Literature, Director of the Medicine, Literature, and Society major at Columbia University, and a coordinator of CHCI’s Health and Medical Humanities Network. That is to say, these sometimes seemingly unbridgeable continents of knowledge—the humanities and the natural sciences—find a meeting point in Goyal.

Recently, CHCI’s Global Programs Strategist, Jason Rozumalski, had a phone call with Goyal in order to talk about the experience of working in Emergency Medicine during the pandemic and how the humanities not only create important ways to make that experience comprehensible but also have the power to transform those experiences into actions toward better care systems and the reimagining of a better tomorrow.

Upcoming Events


Medical Humanities and Pandemic Urbanisms Event Series

March 23 – May 4. For a full list of events and registration, go here. 

To mark the launch of the Medical Humanities major at the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, we are hosting an inaugural virtual series, “Medical Humanities and Pandemic Urbanisms,” which will serve as an essential rallying point for Columbia faculty, current students, and alumni of the Medicine, Literature and Society track. Featuring scholars, activists and artists from a range of fields—from epidemiology to science fiction to urban planning—the series will both illustrate the imaginative possibilities of the Medical Humanities, while also grounding its activities in the community-building work of students at Columbia University in the City of New York.

Medical Humanities engages with humanities and social sciences disciplines like history, English, anthropology, and sociology, as well as scientific fields like biology, genetics, neuroscience and biomedical engineering to emphasize the vulnerability of human bodies, the heterogeneity of anti-essentialist approaches to biology, and the social and cultural determinants of health. The work of students in fields like reproductive justice, gender studies and ethnic studies benefits from an understanding of biologic concepts such as gametogenesis, CRISPR technology, and mRNA platforms. Meanwhile, the study of science and medicine benefits from a sensitivity to rhetoric, structure, narrative and ambiguity.

Such interdisciplinary thinking has become even more pressing in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which provides an unexpected backdrop for the launch of the Medical Humanities major. Thinking with this context, “Medical Humanities and Pandemic Urbanisms” will take on the challenge of building our community of scholars and students in a virtual, dislocated environment.

The pandemic has laid bare latent circuits of racialization and social differentiation. Living with the virus has posed new questions about the limits of the human, and the risks of social life. As an early epicenter, New York City has been forced to question its contested globality and its dependence on precarious service laborers. Over six weeks, the series will pick up these themes related to New York City and other global metropolises; pandemic urbanisms; race, climate, and housing; and utopian/dystopian imaginaries.

This series was organized by Rishi Goyal and Arden Hegele.
Cosponsorship has been provided by:
Center for Science and Society
Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture
Weatherhead East Asian Institute
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
Department of English and Comparative Literature
Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics

IRWGS Spring 2021 Graduate Student Conference “Radical Care” 

Fri, April 2, 2021, 1:00 PM – 4:30 PM EDT

Click here to register

We are excited to announce that this semester the IRWGS is hosting a one-day graduate student conference on the theme of “Radical Care.” We hope to bring students together to ask how the field of Gender & Sexuality Studies should engage in theorizing and practicing care in the current moment and a post-pandemic future. Very broadly, we are looking for work that both engages, and pushes beyond, new scholarship in the field which has returned to the genealogy of care as a crucial, yet under-examined praxis of radical politics. Please see below the CFP with a fuller description and information on how to submit your work.

Seminar 6: Lab Work – Art of the Experiment

Apr 5, 2021 5:00–7:00pm ET 

Click here to register. 

Whether as a research protocol or pedagogical and demonstrative form, the experiment is always also a technique and site of empire. This panel gathers practitioners working between contemporary art and natural science, who use and remake “the scientific experiment” in consideration of critical histories and theories of technoscience.

Convened with Jeannine Tang, Assistant Professor of Modern/Contemporary Art History and Visual Studies at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, this panel features artists fields harrington, Mary Maggic, and Claire Pentecost, and biologist Deboleena Roy.

To participate in Mary Maggic’s performance, please find a product in your home that contains a xenoestrogen ingredient.  

SELMA Medical Humanities Seminar Series

April 12, May 4, and June 1 9-10AM EST 


The SELMA Centre for the Study of Storytelling, Experientiality and Memory at the University of Turku, Finland is launching a Medical Humanities Seminar Series in 2021.

Bringing together colleagues from across Finland and the Nordic countries with international collaborators, this seminar series organizes and supports innovative and interdisciplinary dialogues on the stories, memories and experiences of health and illness. In particular, we are interested in the ways in which experiences of illness and disease shape and are shaped by the interrelations between cultures, persons and environments.

13 April, 16–17 EET (14-15 UTC / 9-10 EST)

Linda Nesby (PhD, Deputy Head of Department of Language and Culture/Associate Professor of Scandinavian Literature, The Arctic University of Norway): “TBC”

4 May, 16–17 EET (14-15 UTC / 9-10 EST)

Laura Piippo (PhD, University Teacher in Literature, Department of Music, Art and Culture Studies, University of Jyväskylä): Poetics of experimental literature and paranoia

1 June, 16–17 EET (14-15 UTC / 9-10 EST)

Anita Wohlmann (PhD, Associate Professor, Department for the Study of Culture, University of Southern Denmark): “TBC”