Community and Environmental Sociology 375:

Special Topics--Community Response to Pandemics

The web address for this syllabus is:

Professor: Randy Stoecker
Office:  Ag Hall 340d
Office Hours: by appointment
Phone:  608- 890-0764

Spring, 2021

Monday, Wednesday, 4:00-5:15

Location: online


The university administration is now mandating that faculty include certain content in their syllabi. Here is the content complying with that mandate:


We have been suffering through the worst pandemic in 100 years. But we have not been suffering the worst pandemic ever. And our world has survived the great tragedy of those past pandemics. Society survived not because of governments, or corporations, but because of people in communities who cared for each other and protected each other. We need to understand what they did. Of course, not all communities acted in the best interests of their members or the broader society, and we need to understand what they did too. To the extent to which we understand how communities can manage pandemics, we will be stronger and better prepared for the next one.

Course and learning Goals

My main goal for this course is for you to learn about how communities of the past and present have managed epidemics and pandemics—the good and the bad.

Our department has agreed to the following learning goals for our overall curriculum: 1. Understand how social science arguments are constructed and evaluated. 2. Develop ability to assess data quality and understand whether particular data is appropriate to answer specific questions. 3. Learn general theories on basic social processes, especially those related to the relationships between society and the environment and the social organization of communities. 4. Learn communication skills in the social sciences. Our class discussion process will support these learning goals.

Specifically, in this course, we will focus on the following goals: 1. Understand the community-based sources of pandemics (and epidemics). 2. Understand cultures and structures of communities in relation to pandemics. 3. Understand how communities change themselves in relation to pandemics. Along the way, I will also have some sub-goals to understand some specific sociological theories that apply to pandemic circumstances.

Having said this, however, I urge you to be skeptical of the top-down university mandates to limit learning to specific pre-defined narrow goals. My hope is that you will seek out the unexpected learning that can come from immersing yourself in a topic without imposed constrained expectations.

Expected Background

There are no prerequisites for this course. However, it will help you enormously if you have had one or more social science or public health courses. This course will adopt a sociological perspective—looking at how collectives of people, and social systems effect our lives. If you are not familiar with such a perspective, I strongly recommend spending some time learning about it. You can find in various places on the internet, chapter 1, “The Promise”, from C. Wright Mill’s 1959 book The Sociological Imagination. There are also bunches of web sites that will give you the basics on sociology.

I have designed the course to be as widely accessible as possible. Overall, the reading and writing level for the course will be roughly at beginning third-year level, but not in a narrow way. A number of the readings will be professional journal articles, and the writing will require showing that you understand the readings. Now, this doesn’t mean second year (and even first year) students won’t be able to fully succeed in the class, as many such students can work at that level. And seniors and grad students will definitely find plenty to keep their attention as well.

Statement on Diversity

The Good Society will not come from an exclusive and very powerful few people representing only one set of experiences. It will come from many voices representing many life experiences. Likewise, the best knowledge will come from many voices speaking and listening and combining their wisdoms. I will strive to create a classroom environment that welcomes and includes diverse perspectives, especially perspectives that have been historically marginalized through one or another form of structural discrimination. I welcome the voices of people of all races, ethnicities, and nationalities; all sexual and gender identities; all body types; all spiritualities; all economic classes; all language backgrounds; all family types; all combinations of abilities and learning styles; all participation in international, national, and community service including activism and protest. And I encourage those who feel invisible in relation to these diversities to educate me so that I can welcome you as well.

I choose course materials carefully to also emphasize diversity, especially for the required course readings. I will admit, however, that so many writings of BIPOC authors have been so marginalized that they are difficult to find. You may know of writings or media that I have not yet found, and I welcome you to add to my reading list.

I cannot promise you a "safe" environment. In the current state and national political climates there are no "safe spaces," not even for me. I can only promise you that I will do my utmost to create a "brave space" where people can hopefully gradually feel powerful enough to speak from their experiences and thoughtfulness and contribute to knowledge diversity for all of us. I also admit that I will do that imperfectly and welcome you to hold me accountable so that my deeds live up to my words. Likewise, I expect you to also welcome diversity.

Learning Needs

It is very important to me that everyone is able to maximize their learning in this class. While, of course, you are responsible for much of that, I am responsible for creating a context where your learning style is respected. I always welcome, and will actively seek, feedback on how well the class process fits your learning style. I also welcome you to inform me of any learning needs that require adjustments in how the class materials are presented and how the class process is organized.

Student Health, including Mental Health

Especially in this course, at this time, we all need to attend holistically to our own health and the health of others. At this time, it appears there will not be an effective vaccine available for all of us before the spring semester. So at the beginning of the course we will be meeting online or in person. If somehow we all get fully vaccinated before the end of the semester we can discuss meeting face to face. Please know that I will not require you to meet face to face if you do not feel safe doing so.

In addition, I know that this topic may be emotional for you. You may know people affected by COVID-19. You may have lost loved ones to the disease. You may have been sick yourself. You may have intensely strong feelings (I know I do) about how public and elected officials, or even people in general, have responded to this pandemic. I hope you will not feel compelled to either hide or share your emotions in this course. I am fully supportive of you bringing emotion into the classroom and equally supportive of you keeping your emotions private. It is your choice. If you do bring your emotions into the class, please do so as consciously as you can. Use feeling statements—“I am feeling...about...” I am also completely available to be present outside of class if you feel a need to share your emotional experience of the class discussion and/or reading material.

Finally, we are facing a student mental health crisis not just at UW-Madison but in higher education institutions across the country and in our society. And things have only gotten worse through the pandemic. Sadly, our society still stigmatizes mental health as if it is somehow different from other forms of health. I reject that stigmatization. Diabetes and depression, just as examples, are both real health conditions, they both respond to treatment (and interestingly both can be at least partly treated with behavioral interventions as well as with medication), and they both can impact one’s quality of life. I urge you to get treatment for mental health conditions the same way I would urge you to get treatment for any other health condition. I was also trained in counseling long ago (though I am not licensed) and am always willing to have an initial conversation with you and support you in seeking treatment from licensed professionals. You can access information about UW mental health services at . I know that they continue to be overwhelmed with requests for services. Even as they hire more staff, requests keep growing. So this too is a sociological problem. Mental health conditions are not just inside of people. They are also outside of people, in the social institutions we create. We need to change those external causes of mental health conditions, not just treat the internal consequences.

My Philosophy of Education

When teachers realize they still have things to learn and students realize they have things to teach, and when everyone is in an atmosphere where both students and teachers are encouraged to learn and teach, everyone benefits.

My job is to create and maintain a learning atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable taking intellectual and interpersonal risks, and to help you do your part in maintaining that atmosphere. I welcome critiques of ideas, especially my own. In the end, the best learning comes from connecting through our differences, especially if we practice respect for each other as people while we question and criticize each other’s ideas.

Professor Consultations

Please feel welcomed to talk with me whenever you have a question about course assignments, lectures, discussions, readings, or project activities. I will gladly discuss questions you have about the course material and our class process. Please also fee welcomed to talk with me whenever you find yourself interested in the issues raised in the course and you want to discuss further or get more information.

Student Rights and Responsibilities

You should know that you have specific rights that include accommodations for religious observances, physician-documented illnesses, and disabilities. You also have the right to appeal grading and disciplinary procedures that normally begin with contacting the chair of the department, Michael Bell, (608) 265-9930, or . If you do not feel comfortable contacting the chair you can contact the CALS Dean’s office at Of course, my goal is to structure and facilitate the course in such a way, that you feel comfortable contacting me about concerns you have.

You also have specific responsibilities that include things like avoiding plagiarism, not cheating on coursework, and treating each other with respect.

The COVID Section

By this time you should all know there are a set of university policies and guidance about keeping yourself and others as safe as possible on and off campus. This class is online, but I still want you to know about them. And because you do have the option of working together on things, you need to know and (please, please) follow those policies and guidance if you choose to work together on things. You can find campus COVID policies at and

I also very much understand the tension most of you face. Young adults without any serious medical conditions are statistically less likely to suffer serious effects from COVID-19 compared to older populations. But the problem with statistics is that they only apply to populations, not individuals. At this point, we still don’t have reliable predictors of who will be the exceptions—those young adults who do get seriously ill even though they don’t have any as-of-yet identified medical condition.

Important Academic Calendar Dates

Last day to drop with no record on transcript: February 3

Last day to drop with full tuition adjustment: February 5

Last day to change enrollment without needing department approval: February 5

Last day to drop without needing Dean’s approval: April 16

For other important dates, see

Student-Guided Course Content

I have developed content for the first nine weeks of class. We will engage in a process during our first few class meetings to find out your learning goals and the topics you are interested in. Those will then inform what we do during the rest of the semester.


Please read these requirements carefully, and ask me questions about them—they may be different from what you are used to. There is significant flexibility in what you do for your grade, but most of your grade will be dependent on showing that you understand the readings. I will also grade you on points that you accumulate throughout the semester, *not* percentages. If you add all the potential points up, you will see that there are 145 possible points for undergrads and you only need to get 93 points for an A. For grads there are 160 possible points and you only need to get 108 points for an A. You are responsible for choosing what combination of activities you will do to get the number of points you want. The grading scale for the course will be:

For Undergraduate students, your scale is:

93 points and up = A, 88-92 = AB, 83-87 = B, 78-82 = BC, 70-78 = C, 60-69 = D, <60 = F

Graduate students, please add 15 points to that scale (you can do the extra points in either Integrative Explorations or projects). So your scale is:

108 points and up = A, 103-107 = AB, 98-102 = B, 93-97 = BC, 85-92 = C, 75-84 = D, <75 = F

The points come from the following options. Please note the late policies. You should not think of the due dates as the exact time you should turn something in. You should think of them as the last opportunity to turn something in. You can turn things in as early as you want to.

Introductory Essay: Due before our second class meeting on January 27 (worth 5 points; -1 point for every day late beginning as soon as class starts), is an approximately 500 word introductory essay on "What I want and what I bring." It is basically your thoughts on what kinds of things you want to get out of the class in relation to your personal and career goals, and what you bring to the class--which doesn't have to be limited to relevant experience but can also include what kinds of things you might bring to any quality classroom like curiosity. It can include biographical information and intellectual information. You can see my example at the end of this syllabus.

Risky Thinkings: There are 15 opportunities to do a weekly Risky Thinking. I know it’s a weird term, but I want to get away from formal-sounding words like “essay” or “blog.” And, please, I do not mean “risky” in the sense that you are taking grade risks (see the evaluation criteria below). The “risk” part is in trying out ideas that may not be your typical thinking. In this era we desperately need new ideas, not rehashes of old ones, so I want you to take the risk to start with the ideas in this course to develop new ones. My pledge to you is to respect your attempts whether I agree with them or not. The idea is to encourage your intellectual creativity rather than frame it as some kind of disguised regurgitation exercise. I want you to use these to explore your thoughts, not just recite the thoughts of others.

Each Risky Thinking is worth 8 points, -1 point for each day late starting with the beginning of class on Monday of the week we cover those readings.

So there are a possible 120 points here, which means you do not need to do one every week, and you can do even fewer if you also do a project (see below).

I welcome you to do risky thinkings with co-authors if you wish. Just make sure I know who the co-authors are.

You can choose to submit your Risky Thinking to either the assignment section of Canvas or to the discussion board. In either case I will post points and grade-related comments in the assignment section only. I may post general comments on the discussion board.

The evaluation criteria will be:

~use at least one specific part (such as a quote) of each required reading or chapter (note the author and the page number when possible) as a jumping off point for a creative discussion of the ideas in those readings. Basically, if there are three readings, each is worth two points, and your discussion is worth two points.

~write at least 250 words and try to limit yourself to 500 words. I will evaluate how accurately you present the portions of the readings you use, but I will not grade your own risky thinking about those readings unless they involve interpretations of the reading that I think are not supportable. You can discuss each reading separately, or all in combination or comparison. You can submit a Risky Thinking even if you do not attend class for those readings (the deadline is the same whether or not you are in class). Note: you can not choose an incomplete grade to make up late Risky Thinkings.

Project(s): Undergrads can choose to do up to 20 points maximum of project work and grad students can choose to do up to 35 points maximum of project work. You can also choose to do a smaller project worth fewer points. Projects can be research papers (either literature or data based), grant proposals or thesis/dissertation proposals, preparation and delivery of a class session, pre-existing involvement in a pandemic-related community project (community involvement that you start and engage in only for this course will not count), or art/performance activities directly related to community responses to pandemics.

I welcome you to do group projects if you wish. If you do so, please read this guide on teamwork:

Here is the project point breakdown:

A written proposal, worth 1/10 of the project points you want (so, 2 points if you plan on doing a 20 point project), is due by the beginning of class, February 24 (-1 point for each day late). Upload your proposal in the Canvas project proposal section. The proposal should state the topic, activity, and scope of the work (including how many points you want it to count for), and justify how it fits community response to pandemics. If you choose to write a paper, think in terms of 2 points per page, with about the same number of references as pages (a 10 page paper with 10 references, done well, is worth 20 points). If you are already doing a community activity, think in terms of 1 point per hour of involvement, with a reflection covering each hour and connecting to course material (20 hours of engagement, with a reflection documenting all 20 hours and relating it to course material, is worth 20 points).

A complete rough draft/partial reflection/project update, worth 4/10 of the project points you want, is due by April 7 (-1 point for each day late). A complete rough draft of a paper is the entire paper with references. A partial reflection is a reflection on all the hours completed on a community project up to that point. A project update is for art and media projects that shows the progress to date. I will deduct points for less than complete drafts/reflections/updates, but not for quality of ideas or writing.

A final draft/complete reflection/final product, worth 5/10 of the project points you want, is due by the designated finals period (-1 point for each day late). Writing quality and development of ideas will count.

You cannot get credit for a final draft or reflection without a rough draft or partial reflection and approved proposal. You can't get credit for a rough draft or partial draft without an approved proposal. So you still have to do the proposal even if it’s too late to get credit, and likewise for the second step. No rough drafts or partial reflections will be accepted after April 10.

Attendance: You will lose 2 points for each absence beyond the fourth one. However, you can recover those points by writing a Risky Thinking based on the recommended readings (2 points per reading reflected upon), for the day you missed. I also want to let you know that I take attendance not as a policing mechanism but also as a way to stay connected with all of you. It’s difficult for me to get to know a class full of students, and taking attendance helps me do that. Please know that, if you miss two classes in a row without hearing from you, I will likely contact you just because I care about you and your health, not because I want to yell at you.

I will not penalize you for technology failures beyond your control (dropping your phone in the toilet I do consider to be within your control). If you have technology problems, just email or call right away to let me know.

Incompletes: Incompletes are not available for making up Risky Thinkings, except with a letter from a medical professional saying you have a medical condition that prevented you from completing the assignments. Otherwise incompletes are only available for completing projects.


Doing the readings will be crucial for this course as we will use them as the basis for most of our discussions. If you haven't read, you won't be able to discuss and you may be limited to observing rather than participating. I reserve the right, if it becomes clear that people are not doing the readings, to introduce a ticketing system with quizzes for participating in the discussion.

It is important to me that you be able to afford the readings for this course as well. Thus, there are no textbooks. You should be able to access all the readings both on and off campus (note the "" section of some URLs that will allow you to access restricted readings by logging onto the UW library system). I have verified the links in the past few weeks. If you can't access a reading, please let me know.

Finally, it is important to me to find readings from authors of diverse backgrounds, as I believe strongly that life experience is always part of the knowledge process and I like to have access to knowledge that comes from a variety of life experiences. I do that imperfectly, of course, as I also think that there are also some very important readings that come from people who have life experiences more similar to me. This is also why much of the course is student-guided, so that you can also influence what we read.


We are talking about pandemics in this course. And that means talking about pain and death. It also, sadly, sometimes means talking about human cruelty. I want this course to be a place where you feel comfortable to share your own feelings to the extent you wish. I also want you to know that my purpose is to honor the lives of those who have suffered through history, and to recognize the community-based people who have reduced and prevented suffering.


Week 1, Jan. 25-7: Introduction and course design; defining “pandemic” and “community”

In order to have a productive discussion there will be both a reading assignment due at the beginning of the second class meeting on January 27, and a writing opportunity.  When you do the reading, bring questions, objections, critiques, and reactions to talk about in class.  When you do the writing, do it to contribute to our planning the rest of the course.

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Wednesday (after this they will be due on Mondays).

Reading Assignment:

UVA Health. (2020). Coronavirus & COVID-19: Glossary of Terms.

David M. Morens, Gregory K. Folkers, Anthony S. Fauci. (2009). What Is a Pandemic? The Journal of Infectious Diseases, (2007), 1018–1021

Kathleen M. MacQueen, Eleanor McLellan, David S. Metzger, Susan Kegeles, Ronald P. Strauss, Roseanne Scotti, Lynn Blanchard, and Robert T. Trotter, II. (2001). What Is Community? An Evidence-Based Definition for Participatory Public Health. American Journal of Public Health, 91, 1929-1938


Ted K. Bradshaw. (2008). The Post-Place Community: Contributions to the Debate about the Definition of Community. Community Development, 39(1), 5-16.

Brennan, M. A., & Brown, R. B. (2008). Community theory: Current perspectives and future directions: Journal of the community development society. Community Development, 39(1), 1-4.

David W. McMillan and David M. Chavis. 1986. Sense of community: A definition and theory. Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 6-23.;2-I

Daniel T.Lackland. (2005). Systemic Hypertension: An Endemic, Epidemic, and a Pandemic. Seminars in Nephrology. Volume 25, Issue 4, July 2005, Pages 194-197.

Heath Kelly. (2011). The classical definition of a pandemic is not elusive. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 89(7).

Chris W.Potter and RoyJennings. (2011). A definition for influenza pandemics based on historial records. Journal of Infection. 63(4), 252-259.

Week 2, Feb. 1-3: The community-pandemic-environment connection

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Monday.

Reading Assignment:

John Vidal, Ensia. (2020). Destroyed Habitat Creates the Perfect Conditions for Coronavirus to Emerge. Scientific American.

Dobson AP, Pimm SL, Hannah L, Kaufman L, Ahumada JA, Ando AW, Bernstein A, Busch J, Daszak P, Engelmann J, Kinnaird MF, Li BV, Loch-Temzelides T, Lovejoy T, Nowak K, Roehrdanz PR, Vale MM. (2020). Ecology and economics for pandemic prevention. Science, 369(6502):379-381.

Harriet A. Washington. (2020). How environmental racism is fuelling the coronavirus pandemic. Nature.


Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2020). Coronavirus, Climate Change, and the Environment--A Conversation on COVID-19 with Dr. Aaron Bernstein, Director of Harvard Chan C-CHANGE.

Lina Zeldovich. (2020). Environmental Racism and the Coronavirus Pandemic. JSTOR Daily.

Robert Bullard, Jacqui Patterson, and Stephen B. Thomas. (2020). Roundtable on the Pandemics of Racism, Environmental Injustice, and COVID-19 in America. Environmental Justice, 13(3).

Rafael Perez and Ross Summer. (2020). On Race and the Environment in the COVID-19 Pandemic. The American journal of the Medical Sciences, 360(4): 327-328.

Daniela Curseu, Monica Popa, Dana Sirbu, and Ioan Stoian. (2009). Potential Impact of Climate Change on Pandemic Influenza Risk. Global Warming: Engineering Solutions, 643–657.

R. Shope. (1991). Global climate change and infectious diseases. Environmental health perspectives, 96, 171–174.

Renee N. Salas, James M. Shultz, and Caren G. Solomon. (2020). The Climate Crisis and Covid-19 — A Major Threat to the Pandemic Response. New England Journal of Medicine. 383:e70.

Jeff Tollefson. (2020). Researchers are redoubling efforts to understand links between biodiversity and emerging diseases — and use that information to predict and stop future outbreaks. Nature.

Ricci P. H. Yue and Harry F. Lee. (2018). Pre-industrial plague transmission is mediated by the synergistic effect of temperature and aridity index.” BMC infectious diseasesvol. 18(1)134.

Week 3, Feb 8-10: First Peoples’ response to epidemics/pandemics in a context of colonization

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Monday.

Reading Assignment:

Paul Kelton. (2004). Avoiding the Smallpox Spirits: Colonial Epidemics and Southeastern Indian Survival. Ethnohistory 51(1):45-71.

Peter d’Errico and NativeWeb (2005). Smallpox. Native American Heritage Programs (Delaware Nation)

Lisa Richardson, Allison Crawford. 2020. How Indigenous Communities in Canada Organized an Exemplary Public Health Response to COVID.


Anthony J. Wallace. (2020). Pandemic shines light on complex coexistence of modern times, traditional ways on Navajo Nation. Cronkite News, Arizona PBS.

C. Matthew Snipp. (1996). The Size and Distribution of the American Indian Population: Fertility, Mortality, Migration, and Residence. Changing Numbers, Changing Needs: American Indian Demography and Public Health. National Academies Press.

Patrick J. Kiger. (2019). Did Colonists Give Infected Blankets to Native Americans as Biological Warfare?

Louise Erdrich, The Birchbark House. Hyperion Books.

Eve Tuck. Suspending Damage. Harvard Educational Review, 79(3).

Suzanne Austin Alchon. (2003). A Pest in the Land. University of New Mexico Press.

David E. Stannard. (1993). American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World. Oxford University Press.

Elizabeth A. Fenn, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82, summarized at

Jerry Ostler. (2020). Disease Has Never Been Just Disease for Native Americans. The Atlantic.

James Urquhart. (2012). Rediscovered Native American remedy kills poxvirus. ChemistryWorld.

The hidden killer : portrait of an epidemic. Author: David Suzuki; Daniel Zuckerbrot; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.; CBC International Sales.

Russell Thornton. (1990). American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492. University of Oklahoma Press.

Sandra Eades, Francine Eades, Daniel McCaullay, Lesley Nelson, Péta Phelan, Fiona Stanley. (2020). Australia's First Nations' response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lancet, 396(10246), 237-238.

Summer Finlay, 1,2 Mark Wenitong. (2020). Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations are taking a leading role in COVID-19 health communication. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 44(4), 251-252.

Jade Begay. (2021). How Navajo Physicians Are Battling the Covid-19 Pandemic. Smithsonian Magazine.

Week 4, Feb 15-17: community response to epidemic/pandemic in early modern Europe

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Monday.

Reading Assignment:

Friedrich Engels. (1845). Condition of the Working Class in England, Chapter 7.

Pamela K. Gilbert. (2012). “On Cholera in Nineteenth-Century England.” BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History. Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net.

Christopher Hamlin. (2009). “CHOLERA FORCING” The Myth of the Good Epidemic and the Coming of Good Water. American Journal of Public Health, 99(11), 1946–1954.


Şevket Pamuk. (2007). The Black Death and the origins of the 'Great Divergence' across Europe, 1300-1600. European Review of Economic History,11(3),289-317.

Richard J. Evans. (1988). Epidemics and Revolutions: Cholera in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Past & Present, 120, 123-146.

Jane Davenport Romola, Max Satchell, and Leigh Matthew William Shaw-Taylor. (2019). Cholera as a ‘sanitary test’ of British cities, 1831–1866. The History of the Family. 2019; 24(2), 404–438.

The Gazette. (2016). Cholera epidemics in Victorian London.

Westminster City Archives. (2020). Cholera and the Thames.

Lisa N. Harning. 2015. Comparing and Contrasting Social, Political, andMedical Reactions to 19th Century Cholera Epidemics in London and New York City. Honors Theses and Capstones, 229. University of New Hampshire.

Rob Schmitz. (2020). What Hamburg's Missteps In 1892 Cholera Outbreak Can Teach Us About COVID-19 Response. National Public Radio.

Sue Hardimann. (2005). The 1832 Cholera Epidemic and its Impact on the City of Bristol. Bristol Branch of the Historical Association.

Week 5, Feb 22-24: community response to the “Spanish Flu”

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Monday.

Reading Assignment:

Marian Moser Jones. (2010). The American Red Cross and Local Response to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic: A Four-City Case Study. Public Health Reports, 125(Suppl 3), 92–104.

Vanessa Northington Gamble. (2010). “There Wasn't a Lot of Comforts in Those Days:” African Americans, Public Health, and the 1918 Influenza Epidemic. Public Health Reports, 125(Suppl 3): 114–122.

Jim Malewitz. (2020). Wisconsin’s pandemic past offers clues to its coronavirus future. Wisconsin Watch.


Austin Haack. (2019). 100 Years Later: An Analysis Into Factors That Affected Mortality During The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic During The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. Honors Thesis, University of South Dakota.

Mark Honigsbaum. 2020. Pandemic Past, Pandemic Present. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. (video)

Bob Silbernagel. (2020). Gunnison quarantine likely slowed spread of 1918 virus. The Daily Sentinel. March 23.

Madeline Drexler. (2020). Deadly Parallels. Harvard Public Health.

Margie Stevens. (2018). Spanish Flu Grips Vermont’s Young Lebanese, 1918. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies News, North Carolina State University.

Alfred W. Crosby. (2003). America’s Forgotten Pandemic. Cambridge University Press.

Greg Rosalsky. (2021). What 1919 Teaches Us About Pent-Up Demand. National Public Radio.

Center for the History of Medicine. (2020?) Gunnison. University of Michigan.

Miles Ott, Shelly F. Shaw, Richard N. Danila, and Ruth Lynfield. (2007). Lessons Learned from the 1918–1919 Influenza Pandemic in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Public Health Reports, 122(6): 803–810.

Laura Spinney. (2017). How the 1918 Flu Pandemic Revolutionized Public Health. Smithsonian Magazine.

Chris Saunders. (2020). When State Got Sick: Revisiting The Flu of 1918. NC State Alumni Association News.

Radhika Chalasani. 2021. Photos: How the 1918 and COVID pandemics compare. ABC News.

Erik Ortiz. (2020). Racial violence and a pandemic: How the Red Summer of 1919 relates to 2020. NBC News.

Jordan Fenster. (2020). Racial unrest, disease, depression: 1919 versus 2020. Connecticut Magazine.

In Wisconsin:

Tessa Conroy. (2020). What Does the 1918 Flu Pandemic Teach Us about the Economic Impacts of COVID-19? Forward? The Wisconsin Idea Past and Present.

Burg, Steven. (2000). Wisconsin and the Great Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918. Wisconsin Magazine of History. Autumn Issue, p36-56.

Käri Knutson. (2020). Unimaginable loss, unimaginable resilience: Remembering the pandemic of 1918. News. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Wisconsin Historical Society. (2000). Wisconsin and the Great Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1928. Wisconsin magazine of history, 84(1)

Samantha Nash. (2020). While World War I Ended, UW-Madison Endured A Deadly Pandemic. Wiscontext.

Teri Shors, PhD and Susan H. McFadden. (2009). 1918 Influenzav:A Winnebago County, Wisconsin Perspective. Clinical Medicine & Research, 7(4), 147-156. Ph

Week 6, March 1-3: community response to HIV/AIDS

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Monday.

Reading Assignment:

Joe Wright. (2013). Only your calamity: the beginnings of activism by and for people with AIDS. American journal of public health, 103(10), 1788–1798.

Ronald O. Valdiserri and David R. Holtgrave. (2019).Ending HIV in America: Not Without the Power of Community. AIDS and Behavior23, 2899–2903.

Nurith Aizenman. (2019). How To Demand A Medical Breakthrough: Lessons From The AIDS Fight. National Public Radio.


Natasha Geiling. (2013). The Confusing and At-Times Counterproductive 1980s Response to the AIDS Epidemic.Smithsonian Magazine.

Rosalía Rodriguez-García, David Wilson, Nick York, Corinne Low, N'Della N'Jie, and Rene Bonnel. (2013). Evaluation of the community response to HIV and AIDS: learning from a portfolio approach. AIDS Care, 25(Suppl 1), S7-S19.

Tasleem J Padamsee. (2020). Fighting an Epidemic in Political Context: Thirty-Five Years of HIV/AIDS Policy Making in the United States, Social History of Medicine, 33(3), 1001–1028.

Mia Schwartz. (n.d.). AIDS and San Francisco’s Queer Community. Found SF.

Rob Roth. (2019). Cleve Jones reflects on life in San Francisco during the 1980s AIDS crisis. KTVU.

UCSF Library. (n.d.). AIDS History Project. University of California San Francisco.

San Francisco AIDS Foundation. (2020?). SFAF History.

Gretchen Gavett, (2012). Timeline: 30 Years of AIDS in Black America. Frontline.

Frinny R. Polanco, Dinora C. Dominguez, Christine Grady, PamelaStoll, Catalina Ramos, JoAnn M. Mican, Robert Miranda-Acevedo, Marcela Morgan, Jeasmine Aizvera, Clori Purdie, Deloris Koziol, Migdalia V.Rivera-Goba. (2011). Conducting HIV Research in Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities: Building a Successful Interdisciplinary Research Team. Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, 22(5)388-396,

Frontline. (2012). Endgame: AIDS in Black America. (video)

C-SPAN. (2010). Black Community Response to HIV/AIDS. (video)

Jim Hubbard. (2012). United in Anger: A history of ACT-UP. (video). Full video at

Week 7, March 8-10: community response to COVID-19—individualism, authoritarianism, and racism against community

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Monday.

Reading Assignment:

Samuel Bazzi, Martin Fiszbein, Mesay Gebresilasse. (2020). Rugged Individualism and collective (in)action during the COVID-19 Pandemic. NBER Working Paper Series. National Bureau of Economic Research.

Jasmine Zine. (2020). Unmasking the racial politics of the coronavirus pandemic. The Conversation.

Agnieszka Golec de Zavala, Kinga Bierwiaczonek, Tomasz Baran, Oliver Keenan, Adrian Hase. (2020). The COVID-19 Pandemic, Authoritarianism, and Rejection of Sexual Dissenters in Poland. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.


Kari Nixon. (2020). An Ethics Debate for the Ages: American Individualism and the Dilemma of the Healthy Carrier. American Literature, 92 (4), 737–743.

Todd K. Hartman et al. (2021). The Authoritarian Dynamic During the COVID-19 Pandemic:Effects on Nationalism and Anti-Immigrant Sentiment. Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Ileana I. Diaz & Alison Mountz. (2020). Intensifying Fissures: Geopolitics, Nationalism, Militarism, and the US Response to the Novel Coronavirus, Geopolitics, 25:5, 1037-1044,

Gabriel Felix. (2020). Wearing a face mask helps protect me against Covid-19, but not against racism. Stat.

Leah Christiani, Christopher Clark, Steven Greene, Marc J. Hetherington, and Emily Wager. (2020). Masks and Racial Stereotypes in a Pandemic: The Case for Surgical Masks. SSRN.

Brooke Wolford. (2020). ‘Horrifically racist’ backlash prompts Oregon county to drop non-white mask policy. The News Tribune. Also see Statement from Lincoln County Leadership at

Alessandro Germani, Livia Buratta, Elisa Delvecchio, Claudia Mazzeschi. (2020). Emerging Adults and COVID-19: The Role of Individualism-Collectivism on Perceived Risks and Psychological Maladjustment. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 17, 3497.

Megan Brenan, (2020). Americans' Face Mask Usage Varies Greatly by Demographics. Gallup.

Barry Eichengreen. (2020). Individualism, Polarization and Recovery from the COVID-19 Crisis. Intereconomics, 55, 371–374.

Sara Shipley Hiles. (2020). What Changes Minds About Masks? In This Small Town, It Was A Child's Death. National Public Radio.

Andrea Ball, Jayme Fraser and Trevor Hughes. (2020). A small town dragged its feet on COVID-19 mask mandates, and residents pay the price. USA Today.

Marika Gerken and Melissa Alonso. (2020). A mayor received so many threats after supporting a mask mandate that she resigned. CNN.

J. Alexander Navarro. (2020). Mask Resistance During a Pandemic Isn’t New – in 1918 Many Americans Were ‘Slackers’. The Conversation.

Edward D. Vargas and Gabriel R. Sanchez. (2020). American individualism is an obstacle to wider mask wearing in the US. Brookings.

Ritu Prasad. (2020). Coronavirus: Why is there a US backlash to masks? BBC.

Frank Morris. (2020). 'Toxic Individualism': Pandemic Politics Driving Health Care Workers From Small Towns. National Public Radio.

Luiza Bialasiewicz and Christina Eckes. (2020). 'Individual sovereignty' in pandemic times - A contradiction in terms?. Political geography, 102277.

Jim McLean. 2021. In Tiny Kansas Town, Pandemic Skeptics Abound Amid False Information And Politics. National Public Radio.

Week 8, March 15-17: community response to COVID-19—mutual aid

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Monday.

Reading Assignment:

Dean Spade. (2020). Solidarity, not Charity. Social Text 142, 38(1).

Ariel Aberg-Riger. (2020). ‘Solidarity, Not Charity’: A Visual History of Mutual Aid. Bloomberg CityLab.

Ashley Colby, Emma Badini. (2020). Solidarity Forever: Initiatives in the Global South as a model of the post-COVID-19 solidarity economy. The Solutions Journal, 11(4).


Randy Stoecker. (2020). Mutual Aid and the World as it Should Be.

Randy Stoecker. (2020). Mutual Aid Guide.

Carlisle Larsen. (2021). The Rise Of Mutual Aid Groups During The Pandemic. Wisconsin Public Radio.

Kristin Litzelman, Sara Richie, Jenna Klink, Sara Fox, Ruth Schriefer and Debbie Moellendorf. (2021). How is Wisconsin responding to social isolation and loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic? Results from an Extension survey ofpartner organizations.

American Studies Association. (2020). “Mutual Aid” is a People’s Movement.

John Preston and Rhiannon Firth. (2020). Coronavirus, Class and Mutual Aid in the United Kingdom. Palgrave Macmillan.

Abigail Savitch-Lew. (2020). Mutual Aid Movement Playing Huge Role in COVID-19 Crisis. City Limits.

Matthew Zole. (2020). ‘Solidarity Not Charity’: How L.A.’s ‘Mutual Aid’ Groups Are Creating Community During a Crisis. LA Magazine.

Safety Practices for Mutual Aid Food and Supply Distribution During the Coronavirus Pandemic. (n.d.).

Mutual Aid: How to Build a Network in Your Neighborhood. (n.d.).

Sigal Samuel. (2020). People are helping each other fight coronavirus, one Google spreadsheet at a time. Vox. Vox.

Pëtr Kropotkin. 1902. Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution.

Michael Barga. (2018). Free African Society. VCU Libraries Social Welfare History Project. .

Emily Schendel. (2020). 2020 was the best Halloween Ever. SW News. .

Mommy Shorts. (). 2020 gave us our best Halloween ever. .

COVID-19 Mutual Aid UK. (resource site)

COVID-19 Mutual Aid USA. (resource site)

Week 9, March 22-24: community response to COVID-19—protest and uprising

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Monday.

Reading Assignment:

Paolo Gerbaudo. (2020). The Pandemic Crowd: Protest in the Time of COVID-19. Journal of International Affairs, 73, (2), 61-76

Tyler Tynes. (2020). The Spirit of Rebellion Grows During America’s Summer of Protest. The Ringer.

Reza Nakhaie and F.S. Nakhaie. (2020). Black Lives Matter movement finds new urgency and allies because of COVID-19. The Conversation.


Lakshmi Manoharan. (2020). Why protesting racism during a pandemic is important – an epidemiologist explains. The Conversation.

Geoffrey Pleyers. (2020). The Pandemic is a battlefield. Social movements in the COVID-19 lockdown. Journal of Civil Society.

Jeremy Pressman & Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick. (2020). Covid19 and protest repertoires in the United States: an initial description of limited change. Social Movement Studies.

Judith N. DeSena. (2020). Pandemic, Protest, and Pandemonium: North Brooklyn, USA. Urbanities, 10(Supplement 4).

Donatella della Porta. (2020). Saving democracy in pandemic times: How progressive social movements can save democracy in pandemic times. Interface: a journal for and about social movements,12 (1): 355 –358.

Gregory Neyman and William Dalsey. (2020). Black Lives Matter protests and COVID-19 cases: relationship in two databases, Journal of Public Health, fdaa212.

Maneesh Arora. (2020). How the coronavirus pandemic helped the Floyd protests become the biggest in U.S. history. The Washington Post.

Dhaval M. Dave, Andrew I. Friedson, Kyutaro Matsuzawa, Joseph J. Sabia, & Samuel Safford. (2020). Black Lives Matter Protests, Social Distancing, and COVID-19. Cato Institute.

Megan Ming Francis. (2020). Protests for the Soul of a Nation: COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and Election 2020. University of Washington Graduate School Office of Public Lectures. (video).

Jeffrey R. Bloem and Colette Salemi. (2020). COVID-19 and conflict. World Development.

The Center for Cultural Power. (2020). No Going Back: A cultural Strategy Activation Guide for Artists and Activists.

Amanda Abrams. (2020). Health Care and Community Development Partnerships in the Time of COVID-19. Shelterforce.

Maciej Kowalewski. (2020), Street protests in times of COVID-19: adjusting tactics and marching ‘as usual’. Social Movement Studies.

Sabrina Zajak, Katarina Stjepandić & Elias Steinhilper (2020) Pro-migrant protest in times of COVID-19: intersectional boundary spanning and hybrid protest practices, European Societies.

Week 10, March 29-31: COVID-19 mental health and domestic abuse

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Monday.

Reading Assignment:

Ravi Philip Rajkumar. (2020). COVID-19 and mental health: A review of the existing literature. Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 52, .

Rhitu Chatterjee. (2021). Child Psychiatrists Warn That The Pandemic May Be Driving Up Kids' Suicide Risk. National Public Radio.

Emily Leslie, Riley Wilson. (2020). Sheltering in place and domestic violence: Evidence from calls for service during COVID-19. Journal of Public Economics, 189.


Julia Ries. (2021). It's Not Just You. A Lot Of Us Are Hitting A Pandemic Wall Right Now. Huffington Post.

Bent Not Broken. (2021). Huffington Post.

Derek M. Novacek, Joya N. Hampton-Anderson, Megan T. Ebor, Tamra B. Loeb, and Gail E. Wyatt. (2020). Mental health ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic for Black Americans: Clinical and research recommendations. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12, 5, 449-451.

Stacey Diane A. Litam. (2020). "Take Your Kung-Flu Back to Wuhan": Counseling Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders with Race-Based Trauma Related to COVID-19. Professional Counselor, 10, 2, 144-156.

Jia Jia Liu, Yanping Bao, Xiaolin Huang, Jie Shi, Lin Lu. (2020). Mental health considerations for children quarantined because of COVID-19. The Lancet. .

Naisha Bansal. (2020). Creativity in the times of coronavirus: Here’s how creative outlets helped Shakespeare, Newton and now, you, amid pandemic. Hindustan Times.

Li, Wen et al.(2020). Progression of Mental Health Services during the COVID-19 Outbreak in China. International journal of biological sciences, 16,10 1732-1738.

Cuiyan Wang, et al. (2020). A longitudinal study on the mental health of general population during the COVID-19 epidemic in China. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 87, 40-48.

World Health Organization. (2020). Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak

Kar S.K., Yasir Arafat S.M., Kabir R., Sharma P., Saxena S.K. (2020) Coping with Mental Health Challenges During COVID-19. In: Saxena S. (eds) Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Medical Virology: From Pathogenesis to Disease Control. Springer, Singapore.

Caroline Bradbury-Jones and Louise Isham (2020). The pandemic paradox: The consequences of COVID-19 on domestic violence. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 29, 13-14, 2047-2049.

Week 11, April 5-7: COVID-19 education changes

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Monday.

Reading Assignment:

Emiliana Vegas and Rebecca Winthrop. (2020).Beyond reopening schools: How education can emerge stronger than before COVID-19. Brookings.

Leticia Alvarez Gutiérrez, Laura Hernandez, Taeyeon Kim, Paul J. Kuttner, Gerardo R. López, Jennifer Mayer-Glenn, Amadou Niang, & Almaida Yanagui. (2020). Education During a Pandemic. Education Week.

United Nations. (2020). Policy Brief: Education during COVID-19 and beyond. [read executive summary and Part I].


Karen Hunter Quartz and Marisa Saunders. (2020). Community-Based Learning in the Time of COVID-19. Learning Policy Institute.

Adam Giambrone. (2020). Mutual Aid Volunteers Are Fundraising To Buy Laptops, Tablets, And PPE For D.C. Students Before School Starts. dcist.

Centers for Disease Control. (2021).Science Brief: Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in K-12 schools.

Mary van Beusekom. (2021). Three studies highlight low COVID risk of in-person school. CIDRAP.

Mark Lieberman. (2020). How Hybrid Learning Is (and Is Not) Working During COVID-19: 6 Case Studies. Education Week. .


NAMI California. (2020) School During the Pandemic: Mental Health Impacts on Students.

Week 12, April 12-14: COVID-19 international responses and women leaders

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Monday.

Reading Assignment:

Michele J. Gelfand et al. (2021). The relationship between cultural tightness–looseness and COVID-19 cases and deaths: a global analysis. The Lancet Planetary Health, Volume 5, ISSUE 3, e135-e144.

National Public Radio. (2020). Huang Hung: How Has China Used Collectivism To Navigate The Pandemic?.

Supriya Garikipati and Uma S Kambhampati . (2020). Are women leaders really doing better on coronavirus? The data backs it up . The Conversation. .


Ian Bremmer. (2021). The Best Global Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic, 1 Year Later. Time.

Kara Cutruzzula. (2020). 6 things we can learn from how women leaders have handled the pandemic.

Worldometer. (2021). COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.

Johns Hopkins University. (2021). Coronavirus Resource Center.

Shaun Danielli, Raman Patria, Patrice Donnelly, Hutan Ashrafian, Ara Darzi. (2020). Economic interventions to ameliorate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and health: an international comparison. Journal of Public Health.

Matthew M. Kavanaugh et al. (2020). Access to lifesaving medical resources for African countries: COVID-19 testing and response, ethics, and politics. The Lancet, Volume 395, ISSUE 10238, P1735-1738.

Pham, N. C., Li, Y., Schapsis, C., Hossain, T., Pham, H. H., Fischer, D., & Yang, J. (2020). Intrinsic Cultural Factors That Helped Vietnam Overcome the COVID-19 Pandemic Compared with Other Countries. Asia Pacific Journal of Health Management, 15(3), 7-12.

Tejativaddhana, P., Suriyawongpaisal, W., Kasemsup, V., & Suksaroj, T. (2020). The Roles of Village Health Volunteers: COVID-19 Prevention and Control in Thailand. Asia Pacific Journal of Health Management, 15(3), 18-22. Tejativaddhana, P., Suriyawongpaisal, W., Kasemsup, V., & Suksaroj, T. (2020). The Roles of Village Health Volunteers: COVID-19 Prevention and Control in Thailand. Asia Pacific Journal of Health Management, 15(3), 18-22.

Ari Altstedter and Dhwani Pandya. (2020). How the World’s Biggest Slum Stopped the Virus. Bloomberg Businessweek.

University of Auckland. (2020). Community-based response to the COVID-19 pandemic: The case of South Asian community in Auckland, New Zealand. PreventionWeb.

Rachel Kleinfeld. (2020). Do Authoritarian or Democratic Countries Handle Pandemics Better?. Carnegie Endowment for Internationa Peace. .

Week 13, April 19-21: community and vaccination

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Monday.

Reading Assignment:

Lala Tanmoy Das. (2021). I Volunteered To Administer COVID-19 Vaccines. Here’s What I Saw During My Shift.. Huffington Post.

Anna Rouw et al. (2021). Global COVID-19 Vaccine Access: A Snapshot of Inequality . Kaiser Family Foundation.

Elizabeth Yuko. (2021). Why Are Black Communities Being Singled Out as Vaccine Hesitant? Rolling Stone.


Steve Inskeep. (2021). At First Wary Of Vaccine, Cherokee Speaker Says It Safeguards Language, Culture. NPR.

Alaa Elassar. (2021). A Chick-fil-A manager saved a drive-thru Covid-19 vaccination clinic after traffic backed up. CNN. .

CDC. (2021). Community-Based Organizations COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit.

Earnestine Willis et al. (2016). Improving Immunization Rates Through Community-Based Participatory Research: Community Health Improvement for . Milwaukee’s Children ProgramProgress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action. 10(1): 19–30.

Maryam Jameel and Caroline Chen. (2021). How Inequity Gets Built Into America’s Vaccination System . Propublica.

American Psychological Association. (2020). Building Vaccine Confidence Through Community Engagement.

Lauren Weber and Hannah Recht. (2021). Covid Vaccine Websites Violate Disability Laws, Create Inequity for the Blind. Kaiser Health News.

Jessica Blatt Press. (2020). The vaccine is here! The Philadelphia Citizen.

Monica Schoch-Spana et al. (2021). Equity in Vaccination: A Plan to Work with Communities of Color Toward COVID-19 Recovery and Beyond.Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

Debbie Koenig. (2021). Grassroots Efforts Help People Get COVID Vaccines. WebMD.

Nambi Ndugga et al. (2021). Latest Data on COVID-19 Vaccinations Race/Ethnicity. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Week 14, April 26-28: COVID 19 community culture and lifestyle for the future

Writing Opportunity:

Risky Thinking due before the beginning of class on Monday.

Reading Assignment:

Ruy de CastroSobrosa Neto. (2020). The fourth industrial revolution and the coronavirus: a new era catalyzed by a virus. Research in Globalization, vol. 2.

World Economic Forum. (2021). From growth to the gig economy: 10 areas to create a better, more resilient future.

Politico Magazine. (2020). Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here’s How.


Thunderbird School of Global Management. (2020). How the coronavirus pandemic accelerates the 4th Industrial Revolution. Newswise.

Lewis Dartnell. (2020). The Covid-19 changes that could last long-term. BBC.

The WHO–UNICEF– Lancet Commissioners. (2020). After COVID-19, a future for the world's children?. The Lancet.

Samuel Brannen. (2020). Covid-19 Reshapes the Future. Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Adil Najam. (2021). I spoke to 99 big thinkers about what our ‘world after coronavirus’ might look like – this is what I learned . The Conversation.

Andrew Merrie. (2020). After COVID-19: imagining a safe and just future for all. Re.Think Talks. [watch video]


Five Principles of Just COVID-19 Relief and Stimulus. (2021).

Greenpeace. (2020). Greenpeace USA’s Just Recovery Agenda.

Finals Period, May 5, 10:05am:

No class, final Risky Thinkings, projects, and absence make-ups due.


Randy Stoecker Introductory Essay

A variety of influences bring me to this course. One is my interest in what is called “historical sociology.” History is about what happens. Sociology is about why. The interesting thing about historical sociology is that we can understand the past, present, and future by using its methodology. So early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, when I kept hearing about how it was “unprecedented,” I wondered. For I had already learned a bit about the so-called “Spanish Flu.” My wife likes to tell the story about how, if it were not for the Spanish Flu, she would not exist and I would not have had the pleasure of spending 40 years with her. Tammy’s maternal grandparents were impoverished Italian immigrants, living in overcrowded tenement-like housing in Madison’s Greenbush neighborhood when the Spanish Flu struck in 1918/19. The Flu took the life of her grandmother’s first husband. She later remarried, and gave birth to Tammy’s mom. I also learned some about the Spanish Flu through a community-based project documenting the history of Madison’s Neighborhood House community center, which was serving the Greenbush neighborhood at the time. So I understood some of the connection between pandemic and community. As I’ve learned more the past few months it is very clear how much history is repeating itself.

Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic began surging, and parts of society started shutting down, I started hearing about both formal and informal groups everywhere who organized to make sure people had access to food, shelter, and social connection. And the concept of mutual aid blossomed onto the scene. I was awestruck by how people came together, even in my neighborhood here in Madison as people organized all manner of social distancing events—this past Halloween was the coolest ever. And I started collecting news stories about how people were helping each other, and joined an international study group trying to understand the rise and expansion of mutual aid. Then, of course, Black Lives Matter mobilizations exploded onto the scene. My earliest academic career was spent understanding a rowdy militant neighborhood movement (when I lived in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis in the 1980s), so protest and social action has always held both my personal and scholarly attention. And it became clear to me that the summer of protest was also integrally connected to the pandemic.

Of course, I have also been learning a lot about the breakdown of community. This is also sociological, as we need to understand the role of culture, and especially “American” culture to understand people who put their communities at risk by refusing to wear protective masks or practice social distancing, and who are threatening the very fabric of our already weak democracy.

So my goal, as a member of this course, is to more deeply understand the “why” of the good, the bad, and the ugly of how we are responding to this pandemic. But as a sociologist, not a psychologist. I want to understand the broader structural and cultural forces that are influencing people’s responses, and how people collectively coordinate their responses to resist being manipulated by abuses of power and money. I also don’t want to wallow in the bad news—there is plenty of that. I mostly want to understand the good news. Because if we understand how pandemics bring out the best in people, perhaps we can bring out even more of the best in us.