Alex Duryee Named New COVID Tracking Project Archive Lead

The UCSF Archives & Special Collections is delighted to welcome our new colleague, Alex Duryee who took over from Kevin Miller as the COVID Tracking Project Archive Lead. The project team continues the work of preserving, providing online access, and building educational resources for the organizational records and datasets of the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic (CTP).

Alex Duryee

Alex brings a background in metadata, digital archives, and archival access to the COVID Tracking Project Archive team.  He holds a BA from The College of New Jersey and a MLIS from Rutgers University, and also serves as the Manager for Archival Metadata at the New York Public Library.  In this position, he manages the Library’s archival metadata platforms and develops metadata policy for the Library’s archival collections.  He also collaborates with staff across the organization to improve systems integrations and develop new methods for accessing and using archival materials.  Alex also serves on the National Finding Aid Network (NAFAN) Technical Advisory Working Group, SAA’s Technical Subcommittee for Encoded Archival Standards, and as the chair of the SNAC (Social Networks and Archival Context) Technology & Infrastructure Working Group.  He contributes to open-source projects such as ArchivesSpace, as well as developing open-source metadata tools.  In 2019, his team was awarded the C. F. W. Coker Award for Archival Description by the Society of American Archivists.

Alex’s background also includes experience as a freelance ArchivesSpace developer, a consultant with AVP, and a digital archives fellow with Rhizome.

Alex enjoys puzzles of all sorts (including metadata), board games, baking, and dancing.

Continuing Conversations

This week’s story comes from Isabella Durgin, third-year English and geography student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Post by Isabella Durgin:

Human connection can break the space-time continuum. 

This summer, I worked with the UCSF Archives & Special Collections department to help the digital archiving of the COVID Tracking Project (CTP), a cohort of volunteers that worked under The Atlantic to document and report on the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Project came to a close in 2021, they also began to tell their story – and that was where I came in. Along with the team, my work at UCSF ultimately spun a layered tale of interconnectedness.

As a Digital Archive Intern, I was primarily responsible for the organization and curation of the Oral History Archive component of the broader CTP Archive. These files were the product of CTP’s internal interviews to break down and reflect on the work of volunteers and staff. Interviews occurred across a large period of time, spanning from the winddown of the Project in spring 2021 to several months later, when the gears had pretty much ground to a halt. 

Many interviews allocated a significant portion of time to discuss the community they had found during the first 365 days of the pandemic – March 7, 2020 to March 7, 2021 – during which CTP was producing publicly available data and information.

The people at CTP built an organization to handle an extremely unfamiliar crisis with fairly unfamiliar tools – now virtual workplace darlings like Zoom and Slack. Nevertheless, a thriving hive was built up bit by bit (and byte by byte), founded on prioritizing volunteers as humans and crafting a new language of custom emoji.

And somehow, by the end of the summer, I felt like I had a place in it as well. 

Without speaking to any of these people or bonding by synchronistically living through the same pandemic moments, I still had the same experience of feeling like part of something bigger. Which, in some ways, was the hope – the longstanding one, anyways – for the Oral Histories. One of the intentions was for others to learn from CTP’s approach and use the model in other contexts in order to build more compassionate and sustainable communities. 

Around a year after CTP’s 2021 conversations about the year prior, I was able to tap into the web of people and relationships. The same can be done with the thousands of other files in the CTP Archive; there is the same potential for different fields to learn from the stories told by the outreach efforts or the data journalism. Even the numbers tell a story. We just have to be ready to preserve and to listen – actions I learned are far more similar than one may think.

Creating a Collection: Chaplaincy Services at the University of California, San Francisco

Introduction by Polina Ilieva:

After a four-year break, last semester the archives team hosted a History of Health Sciences course, the Anatomy of an Archive. This course was developed and co-taught by the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Associate Professor, Aimee Medeiros and Associate University Librarian for Collections and UCSF Archivist, Polina Ilieva. Charlie Macquarie, Digital Archivist, facilitated the discussion on Digital Projects. Polina, Peggy Tran-Le, Research and Technical Services Managing Archivist, and Edith Escobedo, Processing Archivist, served as mentors for students’ processing projects throughout the duration of the course.

The goal of this course was to provide an overview of archival science with an emphasis on the theory, methodology, technologies and best practices of archival research, arrangement and description. The archivists put together a list of collections requiring processing and also corresponding to students’ research interests and each student selected one that they worked on with their mentor to arrange and create a finding aid. During this 11-week hybrid course students developed competencies related to researching and describing archival collections, as well as interpreting the historical record. At the conclusion of this course students wrote a story about their experiences highlighting collections they processed. In the next few weeks, we will be sharing these stories with you.

This week’s story comes from Alexzandria Simon, PhD student, UCSF Department of History & Social Sciences.

Post by Alexzandria Simon:

Having never stepped into any kind of archival space or discussion, I was excited to engage with, learn about, and understand what the archives are and mean. Now, after working with Polina Ilieva and Aimee Medeiros, at UCSF, I realize all the intricacies, time, and special attention that goes into the archival collection process. There are practices and standards that guide researchers and archivists, and emotions and ethics play a role in shaping collections and entire archives. The journey of processing a collection is time consuming, interdisciplinary, and sometimes messy. However, the craft of processing a collection allows individuals to discover new characters, information, and stories that take place during a different time and space.

            When I saw my collection for the first time, all I could think to myself was how small the collection is. I was surprised after seeing others, some that consisted of 5 boxes worth of documents, that the one I was planning to work on could be confined to one file. I could not begin to comprehend how the file could tell such a large story. I began flipping through all the documents, photographs, and pamphlets and skimming through the letters and correspondence trying to put all the pieces together. The file had no organizational layout, and so my priority was to put everything in chronological order. I wanted to understand the starting point and the ending point. What I came to discover is that sometimes, collections do not always have a solid beginning and concluding aspect. Stories sometimes begin right in the middle and then end abruptly, leaving many questions.

Figure 1: “Physician – Patient – Pastor” Pamphlet, San Francisco Medical Center, May 1961, Chaplaincy Services at UCSF, MSS 22-03.

Figure 1: “Physician – Patient – Pastor” Pamphlet, San Francisco Medical Center, May 1961, Chaplaincy Services at UCSF, MSS 22-03.

The Chaplaincy Services at UCSF Collection began with correspondence between UCSF administrators interested in starting a chaplaincy program. They sought to understand how chaplains, priests, and rabbis could have a role in their hospital space and provide services to patients. What they came to learn and understand, from informational pamphlets, is the connection between chaplains and patients is a powerful one. Chaplains offer judgement free support and a space for patient’s belief and repent needs. When a patient is alone with no family members or loved ones, they can call upon their religion to give them a person of guidance and care.

Figure 2: Installation Service Program for Reverend Elmer Laursen, S.T.M., Lutheran Welfare Service of Northern California, September 18, 1960, Chaplaincy Services at UCSF, MSS 22-03.

Figure 2: Installation Service Program for Reverend Elmer Laursen, S.T.M., Lutheran Welfare Service of Northern California, September 18, 1960, Chaplaincy Services at UCSF, MSS 22-03.

These discussions would ultimately lead to the establishment of a Clinical Pastoral Education Program initiated and headed by Reverend Elmer Laursen, S.T.M. Reverend Laursen was a prominent figure in the Chaplaincy Services at UCSF and established clinical pastoral work as necessary for patient care. Reverend Laursen engaged in public outreach, fundraising, patient and student advocacy, and building relationships with other colleges and hospitals. His work inspired other pastors, reverends, and religious officials to begin implementing clinical pastoral education programs to develop student learning and patient care. He believed that pastoral care is imperative to patient care. Patients deal with challenging, and sometimes traumatizing and scary, medical procedures. The Chaplaincy Program could offer solitude and peace for patients who have no one else to call on. Chaplaincy Programs offer a humanistic approach to patient care in a field that is saturated with data, clinicians, and the medical unknown.

Figure 3: Group Photo of Chaplains, Reverends, Nuns, and Administrators at the 21st Anniversary Celebration of Chaplaincy Training Event, September 1982, Chaplaincy Services at UCSF, MSS 22-03.

Figure 3: Group Photo of Chaplains, Reverends, Nuns, and Administrators at the 21st Anniversary Celebration of Chaplaincy Training Event, September 1982, Chaplaincy Services at UCSF, MSS 22-03.

After reading through the collection, I began dividing the documents into subject folders. These consisted of “Chaplaincy Service Materials,” “Pamphlets & Booklets,” “Funding,” “Chaplaincy Facility Space,” “Chaplain Elmer Laursen,” “Correspondence – August 1959 – September 1974,” “Photographs,” “21st Anniversary Celebration,” and “Rabbi Services.” Through these folders, the collection is now organized in a way researchers and others can trace the narrative. While I was processing the collection, I kept reminding myself to make the finding aid easy and accessible. I want anyone, scholar or not, to be able to open the finding aid or file and know what the collection includes. It is difficult to not let the records overwhelm you with tiny details. It is difficult to not get lost in every aspect of a collection. I found gaps in the correspondence, and every time I read something new, I seemed to come up with more questions. However, I believe that to be a part of the journey and work of archivists and scholars. We are always left wanting more. The documents in the collection are only a portion of the much larger story around Chaplaincy Services at UCSF. Even more miniscule in the larger history around religion and hospitals.

Kathryn Stine Joins UCSF Archives & Special Collections

We are excited to introduce Kathryn Stine who joined the Archives & Special Collections team as a Digital Health Humanities Program Coordinator. This position will support development and day-to-day operations of a new Digital Health Humanities Pilot. The goal of this initiative is to guide and support faculty in their engagement with digital tools and methods to facilitate interdisciplinary scholarship that will advance understanding of the profound effects of illness and disease on patients, health professionals, and the social worlds in which they live and work.

Kathryn Stine, UCSF Library digital health humanities program coordinator
Kathryn Stine

Kathryn Stine has an extensive background in developing and providing access to digital collections. Her experience includes nearly 10 years working for the University of California system at the California Digital Library (CDL) in various roles, the most recent of which as the Senior Product Manager for Digitization & Digital Content. In that position, Kathryn managed the team that supports and coordinates the University of California Libraries’ engagement with HathiTrust and mass digitization activities. 

Prior to joining CDL, Kathryn held several positions at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she was responsible for leading the university archives program and managed special collections processing. 

Kathryn is deeply experienced in developing and managing cross-institutional and cross-departmental library projects and building communities across diverse functions and perspectives. Her work at CDL  included managing and contributing to both investigative and operations-focused systemwide project teams, coordinating web archiving initiatives, advising for the UC Berkeley digital lifecycle program, and leading a team of developers and analysts to launch, maintain, and enhance a metadata management system for and with HathiTrust. She is motivated by supporting cross-functional teams in bringing both collaboration and creativity to common purpose.

Working with (meta)data is a throughline in Kathryn’s career, and she is enthusiastic about encouraging new ways of deriving and analyzing collections data in support of innovative digital research. In developing and providing workshops and providing project consultation, Kathryn has found working with researchers to make the most of digital collections to be incredibly rewarding. She is very excited to be joining the UCSF Library for the opportunities to work with researchers, technologists, and archivists to match health humanities research inquiry to relevant collections, digital analysis methods, and technical tools.

Kathryn loves a good metadata challenge to puzzle through, and also enjoys improvisational cooking, garment sewing, and getting outdoors with her family, especially to camp and open-water swim.

Exhibit on Intersections of Medical Science and Art Opens in May 2022

This is a guest post by exhibit curator Sabrina Oliveros 

Original engravings from the 17th through the 19th centuries. Facsimiles of masterworks by Andreas Vesalius and Leonardo da Vinci. Images produced through technologies developed at UCSF – including a three-dimensional rendering of a patient’s lungs with COVID-19.

See all these groundbreaking images from the history of medicine, and many more works of science and art, at an exhibit opening in May 2022 at the UCSF Library.

Entitled Seeing the Self Anew: How Art and Science Intersect, this exhibit uses anatomical atlases, medical artifacts, and other materials from UCSF Archives & Special Collections to explore some ways that artists and scientists have informed each other’s work when examining a common subject: the human body.

Frontispiece of De humanis corporis fabrica, libri septem (1543) by Andreas Vesalius.

Collaborations and inspirations

On one level, the relationship between artists and scientists is collaborative. As scientists uncover new knowledge about the body, artists put this information into visual form, recording and disseminating it.

Exhibits in the library’s main lobby feature such collaborations, which, at the times of their publications, counted as the most accurate and attractive anatomical atlases the world had seen. These include books like De humanis corporis fabrica (1543 facsimile) by Andreas Vesalius, which set new directions for the art and science of anatomy; Osteographia (1733) by William Cheselden, which showed the bones in life-like size and detail; and the pioneering manuals on obstetrics by William Hunter (1774) and William Smellie (1793 edition).  

Other displays also show what is created when artists engage with the science of depicting the human body – best exemplified in the works of Albrecht Dürer and Leonard da Vinci.

“The Flayed Angel” from Myologie complètte en couleur et grandeur naturelle (1746) by Jacques Fabian Gautier d’Agoty.

More featured illustrations – like “The Flayed Angel” (1746) by Jacques Fabian Gautier d’Agoty, and fantastical skeletons by Jacques Gamelin (1779) – arguably have less instructional value for medical students. Still, they suggest how anatomical studies inspired artists to produce compelling images all their own.

The rare books and artifacts on this floor are supplemented by images from the National Library of Medicine.

Inventions and new dimensions

Art and science also intersect in engineering, where drawings guide the design of instruments. From microscopes and stereoscopes to x-rays and MRI technology, these instruments facilitate further studies, procedures, and treatments that produce even newer images of the body.

Exhibits on the library’s fifth floor offer a glimpse into such designs. These include conceptual sketches and models envisioned by early 20th-century UCSF professionals like Verne T. Inman, Howard C. Naffziger, and Saxton T. Pope.  

The fifth-floor displays are highlighted by selections from Images, the official publication of the UCSF Department of Radiology and Medical Imaging, dating from 2012 to 2021. With detail and depth that perhaps even the most accomplished early modern artist-anatomists could not have imagined, these illustrations show how far scientists have come – and how much farther they can go – in enabling us to see, and understand, our bodies and our selves anew.

The latest issue of Images magazine renders, in 3D, the lungs of a patient with COVID-19 pneumonia.

Seeing the Self Anew will be on display on two floors (third and fifth) of the UCSF Library at Parnassus through Spring 2023. UCSF Library is currently open to UCSF faculty, staff, and students via ID badge access Monday–Friday from 7:30am–6pm. Changes to in-person library access will be shared through library website as UCSF policies and guidelines are updated in the coming months.

New NHPRC Grant Will Bring to Light Stories of Women Physicians and Social Workers

UCSF Archives & Special Collections (A&SC) is excited to announce that it was awarded a grant by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) in support of the project titled Pioneering Child Studies: Digitizing and Providing Access to Collection of Women Physicians who Spearheaded Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics.

The $149,814 award will support the creation of a digital collection on Calisphere containing materials from five collections held at UCSF documenting life and work of five women physicians and social workers, Drs. Hulda Evelyn Thelander, Helen Fahl Gofman, Selma Fraiberg, Leona Mayer Bayer, and Ms. Carol Hardgrove, who were pioneers in the developmental-behavioral pediatrics research, patient care, and public-health policy. These materials will enable researchers and general public to understand evolution of social policy and cultural norms as they relate to special education, people with disabilities, and equitable access to health care.

Dr. Selma Fraiberg

In her support letter for this project Dr. Alicia F. Lieberman, the Irving B. Harris Endowed Chair in Infant Mental Health and Vice Chair for Academic Affairs at the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, and Director of the Child Trauma Research Program stressed that this grant is extraordinarily timely because these women physicians and social workers “have been trailblazers in creating new knowledge and revolutionizing clinical care, but their contributions are at risk of being neglected or overlooked. These five women excelled against enormous odds in fields where women had difficulty establishing their own independent contributions, and the long-term ramifications of their work continue to benefit millions of children worldwide.”

A relatively new field in medicine, developmental-behavioral pediatrics came out of an increased demand for mental health services in pediatric care starting in the 1920s. While infant and child mortality rates declined in part due to public health campaigns and medical breakthroughs, concerns over behavioral problems and developmental delays grew as pediatrics began to look beyond mere survival and started to consider the whole child.

Dr. Leona Mayer Bayer

“These five women,” says Dr. Jeffrey L. Edleson, Professor and Harry & Riva Specht Chair Emeritus in Publicly Supported Social Services in the School of Social Welfare at the UC Berkeley, “studied and practiced in the same time period and were instrumental in establishing and developing training programs for pediatricians, nurses, and social workers. All of them also published works for the general public addressing issues that emerged at that time and continue to be discussed today, including the role of the mother in the early life of the child, emotional life of children and the importance of including the whole family in pediatric patient care.

 A digital collection unifying the records of these five remarkable women scholars […] will benefit historians of medicine and public health, sociologists, educators, social workers, policymakers, health care providers, patient advocates, and parents.”

 Carol Hardgrove with unidentified colleagues
Carol Hardgrove with unidentified colleagues

Documents from these five collections often illustrate the work of their creators on the same or similar projects and collaboration between the creators; these will be digitally “reunited” in the course of the grant by being posted on the same digital platform, Calisphere and being linked through extended metadata. They speak to the contribution women made early on in developmental-behavioral pediatric clinical research through the papers of Dr. Thelander. In 1952, she founded the Child Development Center at the Children’s Hospital of San Francisco where she conducted studies on children with brain-damage and general pediatric neurology. These women were influential in the training of pediatricians as documented by the records of Dr. Gofman. Since 1966 she served as a director of the Child Study Unit at UCSF, one of the first training programs in behavioral pediatrics in the US. The papers of Dr. Fraiberg document several important aspects of developmental-behavioral pediatrics, including the influence of psychoanalysis on the field and her groundbreaking work on intergenerational transmission of trauma. These women were also instrumental in the evolution of pediatric nursing. Ms. Carol Hardgrove collection documents her role as an educator with the School of Nursing and Child Care/Study Center who authored many works dealing with children and parents and the hospital experience. The collection also features professional correspondence of Dr. Leona Mayer Bayer whose life’s work was focused on child development and in particular human growth and psychology of sick children.

 Hulda Evelyn Thelander
Dr. Hulda Evelyn Thelander

According to Dr. Andrew J. Hogan, Associate Professor and Director of the Science and Medicine in Society Program at Creighton University, “Filling in these silences and gaps in the historical records, by making available more widely their various ideas, aspirations, and institutional negotiations, will allow this story to be told in much fuller detail. Gofman, Thelander, and others’ stories are likely to inspire another generation of groundbreaking young physicians to organize care for populations in need. It will be valuable for students and researchers to learn more about the many challenges that these women physicians faced, and how they overcame them to provide improved resources and support for children with behavioral and developmental conditions and disabilities, a population that was historically overlooked in pediatrics, especially in the mid-20th century, when these women were professionally active.”

As part of this project UCSF archivists will engage with communities of women physicians, researchers, and health care providers, discussing how to document their voices that have been underrepresented, absent, or excluded from the history in general and history of their institutions (including UCSF) or professions in particular. By collecting their stories and learning how to document and share them, we will create a more inclusive and equitable historical record.

Helen Gofman, MD, playing with girl with tea set and toys
Helen Gofman, MD, playing with girl with tea set and toys

This 24-month project was launched in September and will be managed by our processing archivist, Edith Escobedo. The materials will be digitized by the UC Merced Library’s Digital Assets Unit that has been partnering with UCSF on successful collaborative digitization projects for more than 10 years. 

A&SC would like to thank the National Historical Publications & Records Commission; the California Historical Records Advisory Board; Dr. Aimee Medeiros, assistant professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Science at UCSF; Emily Lin, Head of Digital Curation and Scholarship, UC Merced Library; and other supporters for their help with this proposal.

About UCSF Archives & Special Collections

The mission of the UCSF Archives and Special Collections is to identify, collect, organize, interpret, and maintain rare and unique material to support research and teaching of the health sciences and medical humanities and to preserve institutional memory. Please contact Polina Ilieva, Associate University Librarian for Collections with questions about this award.

Kevin Miller Joins the UCSF Archives Team

The UCSF Archives & Special Collections is excited to welcome our new colleague, Kevin Miller who was appointed as the COVID Tracking Project Archive Lead. He will direct a team, comprising of Charlie Macquarie and Edith Escobedo, to preserve and provide online access to the entirely born-digital organizational records and datasets of the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic (CTP) to make this archive usable by researchers and to advance current practices in digital archives.

Kevin Miller picture
Kevin Miller

Kevin was the Website Team Lead of the COVID Tracking Project, managing a large group of volunteers building and maintaining one of the most critical sources of information during the first year of the pandemic. He worked alongside hundreds of researchers, epidemiologists, reporters, and passionate individuals to help make interfaces and write articles that ultimately informed public policy at the state and national level.

He received a Bachelor of Arts in Social History in one of the earliest graduating classes of Cal State Monterey Bay, and worked for the University for twelve years as its only web developer. During that time, he collaborated on several projects with the university library and special collections. He is passionate about web accessibility and has built several open-source tools that audit web content against current standards.

He was a founding archivist of the Fort Ord Museum and Archives and volunteered with the Monterey Maritime Museum on auditing their collection. He worked as an archival researcher for the book “Work or Fight!” on race and gender in the draft during World War I.

When he is not in front of the computer, he can be found outside somewhere backpacking, canyoneering, surfing, biking, river rafting, or trying to combine several of these activities into one outing with mixed success.

Peggy Tran-Le Joins UCSF Archives

Please join us in giving a warm welcome to our new Research and Technical Services Managing Archivist, Peggy Tran-Le. Peggy comes to UCSF with over 15 years of diverse experience as an archivist, most recently at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) where she has served as the museum’s Archivist and Records Manager.

Peggy Tran-Le

During her tenure at SFMOMA, Peggy developed and managed the archives programs including planning, policies and procedures, acquisition, description, and processing and preservation of analog and digital institutional records and special collections.  She established the museum’s records management program and advanced museum-wide policies and procedures through developing collaborative relationships and serving as a resource for museum staff regarding SFMOMA’s policies and procedures.

She oversaw research services provided to staff and external researchers, in addition to responding to reference inquiries, assisting researchers on site and remotely, and issuing permissions to publish for archival collections.

Prior to joining SFMOMA, Peggy spent time as an Archivist at the National Archives at San Francisco (NARA) and as the Research Archivist at Pixar Animation Studio. At NARA, she managed the volunteer and intern programs and established priorities for arrangement, description, and preservation of records. While at Pixar, she supported the international tour of PIXAR: 25 Years of Animation and the research for The Art of … series of Pixar art books.

She received a Master of Library and Information Science degree (MLIS) from San Jose State University, a Master of Arts (MA) in Art History from the University of Chicago, and Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Art History and US History from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

GRAD 219 Course – The Black Experience in American Medicine – Week 2

This is a guest post by Rhea Misra, PhD Candidate, UCSF Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Program

In reading “The Black Politics of Eugenics,” I learned about how eugenics was not initially a negative concept. Eugenics relates to the idea of human improvement through reproduction and understanding hereditary. It has been associated with Nazi doctrine; however, Nuriddin brings up in the article that, at one point, eugenics was embraced by marginalized communities to combat scientific racism and improve racial equality. The idea that marginalized communities would embrace eugenics to combat scientific racism, reminds me how slurs and negative concepts are reclaimed by these same communities that are harmed by such things to bring about improvement or change. This article also made me reflect on if eugenics, in the modern times, could ever have a positive association? I am not sure I have an answer to that. On one hand and thinking about the research I conduct, genomic editing tools such as using CRISPR or AAVs to make changes to genome have become commonplace.  Because of the inherent nature of these genetic tools, do they fall under the category of eugenics? They have been used to treat diseases. In a previous course, I had met a patient who had undergone gene therapy to treat his hemophilia, and now no longer requires blood transfusions. But on the other hand, gene editing tools have been used in some cases to make cosmetic edits. The whole idea of human improvement in eugenics comes with deeming certain traits better than the other; thus, marginalizing certain groups of people. Because of the inherent “othering” that comes with eugenics, I can understand how it quickly turned into a negative concept utilized to uphold a racist system rather than breaking it down.

GRAD 219 Course – The Black Experience in American Medicine – Week 3

This is a guest post by Jackie Roger, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF Program in Bioinformatics (BI)

During our class on 5/21, we learned about the term “biopolitics”. After our discussion in class, I wanted to learn more about it and ended up doing some additional reading. Biopolitics, conceptualized by Michel Foucault, is the intersection of life and politics. In practice, it is the governance and control of human life. Many of the topics that we have covered in class can be contextualized within biopolitics.

On 5/17 we talked about forced sterilizations in California prisons. This was a mechanism for controlling who could and could not procreate, and was deeply rooted in white supremacist ideologies. On 5/24 we discussed the hysteria in the 1980s about the “crack baby epidemic” that never ended up happening and had no reasonable scientific basis. There was widespread panic about the possibility of babies born with physical and cognitive disabilities, but little concern about the lack of resources and support for women with substance use disorders. In both of these examples, the focus was on the child-bearing potential of women, and not on the personhood of women. Both forced sterilizations and public hysteria were used to police who should be having children.

On 5/19 we reviewed the Tuskegee syphilis study, and on 5/26 we drew parallels between the racial disparities of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and the ongoing COVID pandemic. In all three of these examples, the medical system prioritized white lives over black lives. There was significant investment in caring for white patients, while black patients were often neglected or mistreated.