Imagining Immunity: Course Starts January 25

Starting January 25, I will be teaching a new course covering the history of the concept of immunity in public health and medical science. It offers important lessons for anyone interested in or managing medical ethics, patient data, and public health campaigns.

The course is offered by the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. It will run for 4 weeks at Dizzy’s Diner in Park Slope. Enroll today at the BISR website!

Course Description

Immunity is a concept with three parallel lives. Historically, scientific measurements and presumptions about immune status have been used to justify political projects of exclusion and oppression. Rhetorically, immunity gets used as a metaphor for how to distinguish “us” from “them.” Practically, we now live in an age when scientists and lay people alike tinker with the immunity of crowds, children, and selves to improve health and safety using technologies from manufactured molecules to microscopic critters. Selected scientific and historical readings about immunity will ground this class in concrete practices and events. Michel Foucault’s concept of biopolitics and key essays from Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholars Bruno Latour and Paul Rabinow will anchor the theoretical perspective of this class. Through our investigation of the multiple lives of immunity, this class will explore how the strategic deployment of scientific knowledge and medico-technological practices animates a biopolitical understanding of society and embeds modern biomedicine in every aspect of social life.

Depending on class interest and scheduling, we may schedule a tour of Ellis Island to visit the Ellis Island Hospital, a key landmark in the history of immunity in the United States.

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