Spring 2023

Pandemics and Society: The Socio-Ecological Construction of Infectious Diseases throughout History

Listed in: Anthropology and Sociology, as SOCI-306  |  Environmental Studies, as ENST-306


Li Zhang (Section 01)


(Offered as SOCI-306 and ENST-306) How and why do pandemics emerge? How have pandemics been shaped by social and ecological conditions around the world? And how do pandemics in turn transform society and our environment? This is a research-oriented interdisciplinary seminar examining how epidemic infectious diseases are not naturally given but socially and environmentally constructed. We will study the plague (including the Black Death), smallpox, dengue, malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, influenza, HIV, SARS, MERS, and COVID-19, and draw upon examples from all around the world throughout history. Special attention is given to environmental change and modernization, science and technology, state-making and globalization, migration and geopolitics, as well as class, race/ethnicity and gender inequalities. The seminar will draw on readings in sociology, anthropology, history, geography, public health, biology, epidemiology, political ecology, and other interdisciplinary fields. Lectures will be accompanied by discussion, and students will be required to undertake independent research, write a final essay, and present their work to the class. We will explore the possibility of publishing final essays as a collection.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Zhang.

How to handle overenrollment: SOCI majors first, followed by ANTH and ENST majors, then class year (seniors, Juniors, etc), then Five College students

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: an emphasis on readings, discussion, independent research, and writing.

SOCI 306 - LEC

Section 01
M 3:00 PM - 4:20 PM WEBS 219
W 3:00 PM - 4:20 PM WEBS 219

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
The Origins of COVID-19: China and Global Capitalism Stanford University Press Li Zang TBD
Pandemics: A very short introduction Oxford University Press Christian W. McMillen TBD
Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present Yale University Press Frank Snowden TBD


Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Spring 2024