Merlin Chowkwanyun – Public Health and Localism

Feb 22, 2023

Feb 22, 2023

6:00 pm To 7:30 pm

Online: ET (USA)


Event Description

The New York History of Science Lecture series examines the local context of health problems.

Conventional medical research fetishes conclusions derived from aggregate (typically quantitative) datasets. What results are top-down, national narratives of health policy that marginalize the thick experience of specific places. This talk takes an alternative approach and argues that one cannot understand the origins of health problems — and the success of solutions to address them — without analyzing the local context that surrounds them. We’ll examine battles over pollution caused by industrial giants, coal extractors and fights over the unequal distribution of medical care in major cities via deep dives — not ephemeral stops — in a number of localities. In addition to arguing for the virtues of the local optic, this talk will also analyze localism as a political practice, which was embraced by community health advocates in the mid-20th century, only to fizzle and confront new challenges a few decades later that remain today.

Event Speaker

Merlin Chowkwanyun, Donald H. Gemson Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences and Executive Committee Member of the Center for Science and Society at Columbia University

Event Information

This event is free and open to the public; Registration required. Attendees will receive a Zoom link from Eventbrite. Please contact with any questions.

This event is part of the New York History of Science Lecture Series.

Sponsoring Organizations:

  • The University Seminars at Columbia University
  • Columbia University in the City of New York
  • NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study
  • The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • The New York Academy of Medicine
  • The New York Academy of Sciences

The Center for Science and Society makes every reasonable effort to accommodate individuals with disabilities. If you require disability accommodations to attend a Center for Science and Society event, please contact us at or (212) 854-0666 at least 10 days in advance of the event. For more information, please visit the campus accessibility webpage.


The Center for Science and Society

About the Organizers

The Center for Science and Society at Columbia University brings together a wide variety of scholars and practitioners in the human, social, and natural sciences from around Columbia’s campus and the New York City metropolitan area to support interdisciplinary research, teaching, and outreach about the roles of science, technology, medicine, and public health in past and present societies. The Center also works to enhance public understanding of science in relation to pressing social concerns.  If you are interested in attending a Center event, please sign up for our weekly newsletter . 

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