Roundtables and webinars


Centre for Research on Pandemics and Society (PANSOC), OsloMet, Norway

The core idea of PANSOC is that pandemics are and have always been more than just a medical problem. Epidemiology and impact of pandemics have been profoundly shaped by socioeconomic status and ethnic background, thus affecting who falls ill, who dies, and who survives.

The primary objective of PANSOC is to map the socially vulnerable risk groups in order to understand how social and ethnic disparities in exposure, susceptibility and access to care lead to social and ethnic disparities in (non) pharmaceutical interventions, pandemic outcomes as well as health and labour market consequences.

The secondary objective of PANSOC is to aid policymakers in developing targeted interventions by social and ethnic status in addition to medical indications, in order to reach the WHO goal of 75 percent vaccine coverage during seasonal influenza, to reduce ethnic and social disparities, to save lives, reduce social and economic suffering as well as medical costs during epidemics and pandemics. 

The aims and objectives of PANSOC are therefore also closely aligned with three of the UN SDGs of reducing social inequalities (goal 10), eradication of poverty (goal 1) and ensuring good health for all (goal 3).

“Disability, Institutionalization, and the 1918 Flu Pandemic: From Historical Records to Simulation Models.

Jessica Dimka, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, PANSOC
May 20, 2021


Pandemic Histories Virtual Seminar Series

In many ways, the four virtual seminars below represent the origin of this Pandemic Histories project. The series was organized by Esyllt Jones with help and ideas from Kevin Siena and Chris Calesso, who did most of the ‘back end’ work. It was financially supported by the CSHM/SCHM. At the time, scarcely a year ago, Zoom was unknown to us and we were tutored by a generous program developer at the Manitoba Museum, Anya Moodie-Foster. From the outset, Pandemic Histories has been a collaborative effort.

The historians who contributed to the series have studied the impact of infectious diseases on diverse communities of sufferers and healers, including indigenous, Black and LGBTQ2 people. The discussions include experts in the evolution of public health since the 19th century, who bring insights from a period of social and economic upheaval and the emergence of ‘new’ epidemic outbreaks across industrializing economies, such as cholera and typhoid. The first of the seminars features three influenza historians, and shows us making some very preliminary attempts to understand how the Great Influenza and COVID-19 speak to each other historically.

The series also coincided with the intensification of the Black Lives Matter movement, after the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020. “I Can’t Breathe” became a mantra at public protests – attended by millions across multiple countries – a poignant echo of the vulnerability of racialized bodies to both policy brutality AND the racial inequities already by then evident in the pandemic. “I Can’t Breathe” on pandemic-masked faces spoke to the pandemic of racism, and the racism of pandemic responses. But, as a rallying cry with an extraordinary depth of meaning, it also spoke to the potential for human solidarity.

In the Midst of History: reflections from influenza historians

Magda Fahrni, Mark Humphries, Esyllt Jones
June 4, 2020

The first roundtable in the Pandemic Histories Virtual Seminar Series, featuring historians Magda Fahrni, Mark Humphries, and Esyllt Jones reflecting on the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic and the current Covid-19 pandemic.


On the Margins: Epidemics and the disenfranchised

Karen Flynn, Maureen Lux, Richard McKay, Kevin Siena
June 15, 2020

The second seminar of the Pandemic Histories seminar series. This roundtable seminar “On The Margins: Epidemic and the disenfranchised,” features Karen Flynn, Maureen Lux, Richard McKay, and Kevin Siena.


Vaccine viewpoints from polio to pandemic influenza

Catherine Carstairs, Heather MacDougall, and Christopher Rutty
July 7, 2020

The third seminar in the Pandemic Histories seminar series. This roundtable seminar “Vaccine Viewpoints: from polio to pandemic influenza,” features Catherine Carstairs, Heather MacDougall, and Christopher Rutty. Recorded July 7, 2020 via zoom.


Public(s) and their Health

Mitchell Hammond, James Hanley, and Sarah Isabelle Wallace
July 23, 2020

What defines the public(s) in ‘public health’? Three historians explore the relationship between public health and the community since the 19th century. Modern public health generated legal frameworks that defined social inclusion and exclusion in new ways, and shifted the boundaries between public and private. How were ideas like germ theory, and notions of healthy citizenship communicated, and received? Successful public health campaigns against infectious diseases also played a key role in shaping public opinion.


Rethinking the City in Times of Pandemic

Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Montréal, McGill University

The COVID-19 pandemic that reached Canada in March 2020 pulled me, like many other historians of health, back into research that I had done some time ago and brought me new readers and listeners beyond the academy, suddenly interested in the history of epidemics and public health measures.  The knowledge acquired by many of us on the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920, in particular, was seen to hold keys to understanding our present.  What lessons, journalists asked me, could we take from 1918-1920 and apply, a century later?  Many historians, practitioners of a notoriously ‘slow’ discipline, were somewhat bemused by what appeared to be the newfound urgency of our work.  It has been gratifying, however, to have the opportunity to share the fruits of our research with interested publics beyond the academy.  And the experience of living through the COVID-19 pandemic has also reminded historians of the ‘total’ nature of such events, that is, the impact of these medical crises on whole realms of social, economic, and political life.

It was with an eye to understanding the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on daily life in Montreal that my colleague Daniel Weinstock (Faculties of Law and of Arts, McGill University) and I were asked by McGill’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Montreal (CIRM) – Centre de recherches interdisciplinaires en études montréalaises (CRIEM) to organize and host a series of webinars exploring the implications of the pandemic for the city (https://www.mcgill.ca/centre-montreal/our-series/rethinking-city-times-pandemic ).  These interdisciplinary webinars were rooted in our historical and contemporary knowledge of Montreal, but we actively sought out expertise on other eras and places.  The result was a series of five webinars, each of them dealing with a different dimension of the pandemic.  True to the spirit of the CIRM – CRIEM, these conversations took place in both French and English.  The virtual nature of this series allowed us to draw on local expertise, but also upon the knowledge and insights of scholars in Vancouver, Halifax, and Luleå, Sweden.  The first webinar, which took place in October 2020, raised questions about the consequences of the pandemic for academic research and scholarship.  The second round table looked back over a century of epidemics in Montreal (typhus in 1847, influenza in 1918-1920, polio in 1946).  Our third meeting examined the management of the pandemic in northern cities, both North American and European, and paid particular attention to questions of health, homelessness, housing insecurity, and state regulation in winter.  The fourth webinar focused on the night, and more specifically on the ways in which the restrictions related to the pandemic, such as curfews, have marginalized people whose lives and livelihoods depend upon being out in the city after dark.  Our final webinar, which took place in May 2021 amidst a rapidly accelerating vaccine rollout and hints that international borders might one day reopen, explored the question of tourists and tourism, both local and international. These stimulating online seminars introduced Daniel and me to a range of dynamic speakers from different disciplines (history, geography, architecture, urban planning, law, communications), some working in universities and others active practitioners and participants in different community projects and institutions.  While the conclusions drawn by these varied speakers were wide-ranging, it rapidly became clear that there were very few facets of life in the city that had not been touched – and altered – by the COVID-19 pandemic.  With time, historians will be better able to assess the consequences of our current pandemic.  Perhaps this series of round tables will provide them with material to understand how scholars and citizens grappled with history-in-the-making.

Repenser la ville en temps de pandémie

            Comme d’autres historien·ne·s de la santé, j’ai été amenée par la pandémie de COVID-19 à réfléchir à mes travaux antérieurs et à présenter ces travaux à de nouveaux publics, au-delà du monde universitaire.  Tout d’un coup, les recherches que j’avais menées sur la pandémie d’influenza de 1918-1920 étaient perçues comme utiles pour nous aider à penser et à comprendre « notre » pandémie.  Des journalistes m’ont demandé quelles leçons nous devrions saisir de 1918-1920 afin de mieux vivre – et survivre – les événements de 2020.  Plusieurs historien·ne·s, praticien·ne·s d’une discipline « lente », ont été étonnés de constater à quel point les conclusions de nos recherches étaient soudainement perçues comme urgentes.  Cela étant dit, il était gratifiant de pouvoir partager les fruits de nos recherches avec des publics extra-universitaires.  Qui plus est, le fait de vivre une pandémie – très différente, certes, de celle de 1918-1920 – nous a rappelé à quel point des crises médicales peuvent avoir un impact sur toutes les dimensions de la vie – sociale, économique et politique.

            C’était avec l’objectif de comprendre les conséquences de la pandémie de COVID-19 sur la vie quotidienne à Montréal que le Centre de recherches interdisciplinaires en études montréalaises (CRIEM), à l’Université McGill, a demandé à Daniel Weinstock (Faculté du Droit et Faculté des Arts, Université McGill) et moi d’organiser et d’animer une série de webinaires explorant l’impact de la pandémie sur la ville (https://www.mcgill.ca/centre-montreal/fr/nos-series/repenser-la-ville-en-temps-de-pandemie ).  Ces webinaires interdisciplinaires étaient ancrés dans nos connaissances historiques et contemporaines de Montréal, mais nous avons voulu également faire appel à des experts d’autres lieux et d’autres époques.  Le résultat a été une série de cinq webinaires; fidèles aux pratiques du CRIEM, ces échanges se sont déroulés en français et en anglais.  La nature virtuelle de ces rencontres nous a permis de profiter de l’expertise locale, mais aussi de nous entretenir avec des chercheurs et des chercheuses à Halifax, à Vancouver et à Luleå, en Suède. 

Le premier webinaire, qui s’est tenu en octobre 2020, a soulevé des questions relatives aux conséquences de la pandémie sur la recherche universitaire.  La deuxième table ronde s’est penchée sur un siècle d’épidémies à Montréal : le typhus en 1847, l’influenza en 1918-1920 et la polio en 1946.  Notre troisième rencontre a examiné la gestion de la pandémie de COVID-19 dans les villes nordiques, tant nord-américaines qu’européennes.  La santé, l’itinérance et le rôle de l’État en hiver étaient parmi les enjeux privilégiés lors de cette discussion.  Le quatrième webinaire a mis l’accent sur la nuit, et notamment sur la manière par laquelle les restrictions liées à la pandémie, comme le couvre-feu, ont exacerbé la marginalisation de gens dont la vie (et la survie) dépend de leur capacité de circuler librement la nuit.  Notre dernier webinaire a eu lieu en mai 2021, au moment où les Québécois et les Canadiens commençaient à se faire vacciner en grand nombre et où on évoquait la possibilité de l’ouverture des frontières dans un avenir pas si lointain; la thématique de cette table ronde finale était les touristes et le tourisme, local et international.

Ces rencontres virtuelles, fort stimulantes, nous ont fait connaître des personnes dynamiques provenant d’une variété de disciplines (histoire, géographie, architecture, urbanisme, droit, communications), certaines œuvrant au sein d’universités et d’autres des praticiennes ou des praticiens actifs dans différents projets communautaires et institutions.  Leurs constats ont varié, mais, très rapidement, il est devenu clair qu’il existe peu de facettes de la vie en ville qui n’ont pas été touchées, voire transformées, par la pandémie de COVID-19.  Un jour, les historien·ne·s auront le recul nécessaire pour faire le bilan de la pandémie actuelle.  Cette série de webinaires leur fournira peut-être de la matière pour comprendre comment des chercheur·e·s et des citoyen·ne·s ont essayé de faire sens de ce moment historique.

Magda Fahrni

Magda Fahrni, Département d’histoire, Université du Québec à Montréal


RDV n°1 – Scientific Research: Adaptation for Better Reinvention?

Moderators: Nik Luka et Stéphan Gervais (CRIEM / McGill)
Speakers: Daniel Weinstock (CRIEM / McGill), Magda Fahrni (CRIEM / UQAM)

October 2, 2020

How does the COVID-19 pandemic affect the scientific community? What are the new research opportunities created by the current crisis? Are we talking about permanent or temporary transformations, positive or negative?

The first meeting of this series is devoted to scientific research and more particularly to the possible transformations that this sector of activity will undergo. To do so, our two guest professors will look at this question from their own experience as well as that of their peers.

New objects of research, transformation and adaptation by the academic and broader scientific community are just some of the topics that will fuel this first discussion in our Rethinking the City in Times of Pandemic series.


RDV n°2 – A Century of Health Crises in Montreal

Sophie Doucet (Ph.D., UQAM), Maude Charest-Auger (Quebec Ministry of Public Security), and Valérie Poirier (Ph.D., UQAM).

November 13, 2020

Can we benefit from past health crises to better understand and experience the current pandemic? What are the similarities between yesterday’s health crises and today’s?

The health crisis we are facing stresses the crucial importance of history in the understanding of contemporary phenomena. This second meeting of the series will be an opportunity to recount the major epidemics that Montreal has experienced over the past century: typhus, Spanish flu, and polio. For the occasion, Magda Fahrni and Daniel Weinstock welcome three former students who, through their respective research work, have analyzed these various health crises and their impact on Montreal society.


RDV n°3 – The Northern City in Times of Pandemic

 James Hughes (Old Brewery Mission), Véronique Fortin (U. de Sherbrooke), and Agatino Rizzo (Luleå U. of Technology).

February 26, 2021

There is no doubt that the health crisis of the past year has accentuated vulnerabilities and inequities, particularly among the most disadvantaged urban populations. As the public health record shows the interconnectedness between every individual, an effective fight against the virus must involve all segments of the population. How can northern cities in wintry climates meet the multiple needs of their inhabitants in order to adapt to the health crisis? 


RDV n°4 – New Light on Urban Nights

Nicolas Kenny (Simon Fraser U.), Jess Reia (CIRM / McGill), and Edda Bild (McGill).

February 26, 2021

Urban nightlife has suffered greatly in the era of social distancing and curfew. Over the past year, many workers, artists and night owls have been forced to go home. The excitement of the night has given way to silence. Those who depend on the night for their livelihood are now deprived of their workspace and their audience. In some cases, their social and economic marginalization has only worsened. Montréal’s now silent nights are more than ever synonymous with apprehension and insecurity.


RDV n°5 – Rethinking the City in Times of Pandemic

Moderators: Stéphan Gervais (CIRM / McGill), Daniel Weinstock (CIRM / McGill), Magda Fahrni (CIRM / UQAM)
Speakers: Jérôme Glad (La Pépinière), Nik Luka (CIRM / McGill), Nicole Neatby (Saint Mary’s University)

The last episode of our series on the impacts of the COVID-19 in the urban context was recorded on May 17, 2021. This episode entitled “Envisioning Tourism Differently” looks at the impact of social distancing and curfew on the tourism experience, and the different initiatives put in place to redefine that experience.


Preserving COVID-19 Experiences:
a Royal Society of Canada Webinar

March 30, 2021

Moderator: Ian Wilson

Panelists: Esyllt Jones, Dr. Kwame McKenzie, Ian Milligan, Cheryl Prescod

Archives offer essential primary information to historians, scholars from other disciplines including historical epidemiology, families doing genealogies, the media—for anyone doing research into the past. What records of this pandemic will future researchers be able to access? The lived experiences of most of the population must be intentionally preserved for the future. Otherwise, the same social inequities that are now hampering our ability to fight COVID-19 will determine whose lives will be remembered—the memories of the wealthy, the white, and the powerful will be privileged over those of the racialized, working people, and those living ordinary lives in extraordinary times. How can we prevent this outcome?

This online webinar explored themes from the RSC Policy Briefing Remembering is a Form of Honouring: Preserving the COVID-19 Archival Record, which analyzes strategies toward the collective preservation of COVID-19 experiences. This policy paper was written by Greg Bak, Ian Milligan, Esyllt Jones and Shelley Sweeney.


Ellen Red Blanket and the Origins of the Jingle Dress Dance Tradition in
Ojibwe Country

March 4, 2021

St. John’s College, University of Manitoba, 37th Annual Marjorie Ward Lecture

Dr. Brenda Child

Brenda J. Child is Northrop Professor and former Chair of the Departments of American Studies and American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of several books in American Indian history including Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940 (1998), which won the North American Indian Prose Award; Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community (2012); Indian Subjects: Hemispheric Perspectives on the History of Indigenous Education (with Brian Klopotek, 2014). Her 2014 book My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation won the American Indian Book Award and the Best Book in Midwestern History. She is the author of a best-selling bi-lingual book for children, Bowwow Powwow (2018). She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of the American Indian-Smithsonian (2013-18) and was President of the Native American & Indigenous Studies Association (2017-18). She is a member of the board of the Minnesota Museum of American Art. Child was born on the Red Lake Ojibwe Reservation in northern Minnesota where she is part of a committee developing a new constitution for the 12,000-member nation.