A new course on the pandemic

  • Forum
  • 05/19/2020

  • UdeMNouvelles
The seminar is essentially interdisciplinary. History, anthropology, public health, philosophy, public policy, comparative politics and international relations will be addressed by some 20 professors.

The seminar is essentially interdisciplinary. History, anthropology, public health, philosophy, public policy, comparative politics and international relations will be addressed by some 20 professors.

Credit: Getty

In 5 seconds

It took only a week to design a new interdisciplinary seminar on the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. It starts today and continues through June.

Today marks the start of a new summer seminar at Université de Montréal. It’s called Politics and Pandemic, and it brings together some 20 experts online to address various aspects of the COVID-19 crisis here and abroad.

"We are using the tools of social science, and more specifically political science, to better understand the causes, current dynamics and probable consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on national and global politics," said the course’s organizer, Frédéric Mérand.

A political-science professor and scientific director of the Centre d'études et de recherches international, Mérand said the idea for the seminar came quickly, in April, when departmental director Christine Rothmayr Allison raised it with faculty.

Reaction was immediate: everyone thought it was a great idea.

“We put together the course outline in one week,” Mérand recalled. “Everyone involved agreed to volunteer their services, and already 50 people have signed up to take the course. Three-quarters are graduate students whose work will be evaluated for full credit.”

The seminar is essentially interdisciplinary. History, anthropology, public health, philosophy, public policy, comparative politics and international relations will be addressed by some 20 professors from UdeM and UQAM and a guest from the University of Uppsala, in Sweden.

Each session begins with a lecture and is followed by an exchange with students and online listeners. There will be two presentations per week until June 18, all by videoconference, of course.

“We are going through the most shattering crisis of our lives right now — at least for me — and we must seize the opportunity to think about it together,” said Mérand. Academics normally used to waiting before pronouncing on current events have been caught off guard, he added.

“We're in the midst of a total upheaval, but there's something exciting about cross-referencing our analyses in the heat of the moment,” the political-science professor said. “The risk-taking is equal to the challenge."

The content of the sessions is international, but there's a strong Quebec component. For example, the May 28 presentation will be devoted to a comparison between Quebec and Sweden, which have taken very different approaches to dealing with the pandemic.

For that session, University of Uppsala political scientist PerOla Öberg will accompany UdeM professors Éric Montpetit (political science) and Jacques Bélair (mathematics) in going over the issues.

Other sessions will focus on the situation in the ‘Global South’ (with Marie-Joëlle Zahar and Maïka Sondarjée) and in Haiti (Pierre Minn). And ex-federal politician Thomas Mulcair, a guest professor at UdeM, will lecture on crisis management from the “practitioner's point of view.”