Health and Politics at the Center for the Study of Europe

In the fall of 2017, under the leadership of Prof. Cathie Jo Martin, the Center for the Study of Europe (CSE) began experimenting with a new model, namely, to offer a series of themed presentations each semester on matters of importance to Europe and to the United States. We began with the theme of discrimination against vulnerable populations and the strategies used by these populations to defend against attack. In the spring of 2018 we tackled the broad issues of capitalism, education, skills and low-wage work, and in the fall of 2018, we looked at politics and images of resentment. In 2019 we took up the topics of religion and politics in the spring and resurgent nationalism in the fall. This spring we have been exploring issues at the intersection of health and politics from a number of disciplinary angles.

Clustered around the “health” theme, the following events have taken place at the Center over that past few weeks under the directorship of Prof. Daniela Caruso.  On January 23, CSE Visiting Researcher Patrycja Dabrowska-Klosinska, currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, gave a presentation entitled, “Vaccine Hesitancy and Human Rights: A Comparative Analysis of Judicial Opinions in Europe and the United States Addressing Parental Refusal to Vaccinate.” Prof. Wendy Mariner, who holds appointments in the BU Schools of Law, Medicine, and Public Health, responded, clarifying the American perspective. The key issue for discussion was variances in risk tolerance not only between but also within Europe and the US.

Mathilde Cohen
Mathilde Cohen

On February 6, Prof. Julia Lynch from the University of Pennsylvania gave a talk based on her newly published “Regimes of Inequality: The Political Economy of Health and Wealth.” In her presentation, Lynch discussed the socioeconomic determinants of health inequalities and the reasons those inequalities persist, despite government efforts to address them directly. The following week, on February 12, Prof. Mathilde Cohen of the University of Connecticut Law School, gave a talk entitled “Eating Women: The Regulation of Milk and Placenta Consumption in France and the United States.” Prof. Alya Guseva from the Department of Sociology and Dr. Ivana Isailovic from Northeastern University responded. This unusual topic made for rich discussion of the varying regulatory regimes in France and the US as well as between women of different identities and socio-economic status in both countries.

On February 26, as part of the its long-standing “European Voices” series, dedicated to the intersection of politics and culture, the Center hosted a reading and conversation event with French author Patrick Autréux. Contributing to our health discussion from the perspective of contemporary literature, Autréux, who studied medicine and cultural anthropology and later practiced as an emergency room psychiatrist, read from his novel, “In the Valley of Tears,” in which he described his own experience of recovery from lymphoma and how it made him a writer.

Coming up on March 26, the Center has invited Johannes Lindvall to give a lecture on “The Origin of Public Services.” His work in progress looks at the origins of governmental institutions such as policing and prisons, schools and libraries, and—most closely related to the theme of health—mental institutions, vaccination programs, and midwifery.  As the subject of public health grows sadly in importance due to the spread of COVID-19, the University is currently considering whether or not to host this and other forthcoming programs on campus.

We plan to wrap up our health-themed series on April 14 with a book talk and discussion entitled “Getting Well in Europe and America.” The subject of discussion is Sandro Galea’s 2019 book, Well: What We Talk about When We Talk about Health.  The author, Dean of BU’s School of Public Health, shows how the controversial health system of the United States is a product of the country’s peculiar history and character, and proposes a structural rethinking of American health policies. Prof. Scott Greer from the University of Michigan will respond to Galea’s presentation on the basis of his vast knowledge of the politics and policies of health in the EU and in several European nations. Current and unfolding events will certainly add to the importance of this discussion.

View all posts