In most Western countries, borders have seemingly disappeared or become permeable to facilitate global mobility and the circularity of goods. As the Polish Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk has poignantly put it, “the virus reminds us: borders exist, and they’re doing just fine.” At the same time, experts across disciplines and politics have repeatedly emphasized that the “the virus knows no borders,” seeking to emphasize that COVID-19 is an infectious disease that can travel around the world at unprecedented speed and with no respect for national frontiers. And yet, it is national, social and cultural borders, borders between generations and risk groups that can explain why COVID-19 has been confronted differently across countries, cultures and societies. These borders exist, even if the practice of medicine itself has long been defined by the goal to transcend them. From the World Health Organization’s “Health for All” to Médecins sans frontières and the European Commission’s Policy “Care Across Borders”, public health initiatives have sought to overcome the very borders that COVID-19 has brought to our renewed attention.
The impacts of the pandemic and of public health measures undertaken to stop its spread have made clear that the Medical Humanities have a key role to play when it comes to making visible the invisible borders accentuated by COVID-19. In the light of this, this online seminar series and conference presents research from scholars and practitioners associated with the Medical Humanities. It explores the role the humanities can play in transcending borders of knowledge and making visible the multiform borders created and accentuated by COVID-19.