In 2014, the largest Ebola epidemic in history affected several countries in West Africa. Coincidentally, before the outbreak became a major media story, Associate Professor of Sociology Karen McCormack was already exploring health and crime epidemics in her First-Year Seminar (FYS) “Epidemics, Contagion and Inequality.” We talked to her about the course.
Tell us about the focus of your FYS and how the idea for it came about.
Over the past decade or so, many social scientists have used the techniques of epidemiology—the study of the determinants of health and the process and patterns of disease transmission—to learn about other social phenomena, like crime or even fashion trends. I’ve been fascinated by this attempt that parallels the work of sociologists to understand how contagion works, and how and why some people (as well as some neighborhoods, communities, and even states and countries) exhibit some degree of immunity from certain conditions. “Epidemics, Contagion and Inequality” allowed me to explore these patterns with students. [Read more...]