Racial and ethnic minority communities are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. They are more likely to have the underlying health conditions that make the virus fatal. They are also more likely to live in poor accommodation and work in lower paid frontline jobs. Migrant workers as well as low income, homeless and refugee populations are likewise particularly vulnerable. The economic fallout from the pandemic will hit these groups the hardest. Far from being a ‘great leveller’, Covid-19 is exacerbating existing structural inequalities. Policies formulated to respond to the immediate pandemic and mitigate its lasting consequences could deepen existing divides. Or, they could be designed to bring about radical change, and produce fairer societies.
The third in a five-part series, this workshop will interrogate the role of inequality in the Covid-19 public health emergency. Our speakers will explore issues related to class, gender, race, sexuality and religion as well as attempts to assign blame and scapegoat. Looking to the future, they will also discuss the need for a broad project of and commitment to equality. The floor will then be open for participants to respond: to ask questions and to widen the parameters of the conversation.
Colm Tóibín is an award-winning Irish novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic, and poet. His works include Brooklyn (2008), The Empty Family (2010) and The Master (2004). He is currently Mellon Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.
Shamus Khan is Chair and Professor of Sociology at Columbia University. He writes on culture, inequality, gender, and elites. In recent response to the school closures, he developed the Youth Remote Learning online platform to engage students who are on hiatus from traditional classrooms.
Sucheta Mahajan is a Professor at the Centre for Historical Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and a former Trinity Long Room Hub Visiting Research Fellow. She works on the history and politics of the twentieth century, movements for social change, connected histories of independence and partition and the practice of oral and public history.
Crises of Democracy curriculum.
Aratani, Lauren and Rushe, Dominic. 'African Americans bear the brunt of Covid-19's economic impact.' The Guardian. April 28, 2020.
Dorn, Aaron van, Cooney Rebecca E, and Sabin, Miriam L. 'COVID-19 exacerbating inequalities in the US.' The Lancet 395, 10232 (2020): 1243-4.
The Economist. 'Closing schools for covid-19 does lifelong harm and widens inequality.' The Economist. April 30, 2020.
The Economist. 'American inequality meets covid-19.' The Economist. April 18, 2020.
Gettleman, Jeffrey, Schultz, Kai and Raj, Suhasini. 'In India, Coronavirus Fans Religious Hatred.' New York Times. April 12, 2020.
Kalache, Alexandre. 'Coronavirus makes inequality a public health issue.' World Economic Forum. April 13, 2020.
Palshikar, Suhas. ‘Minimise democracy, maximise interfaith distance, maintain aloofness from poor — may be the new normal.’ The Indian Express. April 22, 2020.
Sen, Amartya. ‘Overcoming a pandemic may look like fighting a war, but the real need is far from that.’ The Indian Express. April 8, 2020.
Mohan, Srikant, 'Global response to Covid-19: Tailoring approaches for the developed world.' Medium. April 23, 2020.
North, Anna. 'Every aspect of the coronavirus pandemic exposes America’s devastating inequalities.' Vox. April 10, 2020.
Vera, Chema. 'COVID-19 Thrives on Inequality.' Project Syndicate. April 13, 2020.
About the series
This is a special five-part series organised by the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute in partnership with the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University in response to the Covid-19 crisis.