Faculty Publication: Professor Kalala Ngalamulume

January 20, 2023

The Pandemic and History

Authors: David Arnold, Pablo F. Gómez, Maria John, Angela Ki Che Leung, Kalala Ngalamulume, Dora Vargha

Source: The American Historical Review, Volume 127, Issue 3, Nov. 2022, Pages 1341–1378, DOI: 10.1093/ahr/rhac337

Type of Publication: Journal Article

Description: Like many things pandemic, this forum has an appropriately complicated history. In late January 2021, the contributors and I began an online conversation designed to draw out their varied spatial and temporal perspectives in an effort to deepen our understanding of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As we began the conversation, the United States had just recorded twenty-five million COVID-19 cases. More than 414,000 deaths in the U.S. were linked to the virus, a larger number than those Americans who died in World War II. At the same time, the World Health Organization was estimating ninety-five million cases worldwide, with the virus responsible for more than two million deaths. It was increasingly clear that we were in the middle of a global pandemic that was upending almost all dimensions of political, economic, social, and cultural life.

At this writing, some eighteen months later, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 6.8 million deaths, making it one of the most deadly pandemics in world history. According to many economists, it has also produced the most severe economic recession since the worldwide depression of the 1930s. The uneven impact of the pandemic in the United States and around the world is manifested in the higher rates of infection and mortality among marginalized populations and in the differential economic and social costs that reflect broader structural inequalities around race, ethnicity, and wealth. Readers of the AHR know all too well the impact the pandemic has had on research, teaching, and museum and public history work, from the travel restrictions and lockdowns that prevented archival and community based research, conference travel, and in-person audience engagement, to the challenges of remote teaching and the impact of the pandemic on students, the ubiquity of Zoom as a suddenly necessary pedagogical and professional tool, and the growing exhaustion of just keeping on.

Kalala J. Ngalamulume is a professor of Africana studies and history and co-director of health studies.

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