European Cooperation in Science and Technology

COST Action People in Motion: understanding the impact of COVID-19 on our societies

European Cooperation in Science and Technology

Throughout history, pandemics have been identified as causing a specific impact on the evolution of societies, triggering different social behaviours in urban environments. The current context of the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception and affects the way our identities continue to develop. As the COVID-19 crisis forces academics to re-organise scientific activity, historians and social scientists are now sharing their insights into the current crisis which adds a new page to the history of pandemics in our societies.

COST Action People in Motion , a four year global research project bringing together scholars from various backgrounds including historians, philosophers, mathematicians and bio-behavioural sciences, has the initial objective to address the entangled histories of displacement of human subjects within and from the Mediterranean from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries.

The knowledge developed by this Action helps looking at the current COVID-19 crisis into the light of different historical experiences.

Following the launch of a video podcast series  ”Contagion“ (a joint initiative of the COST Action PIMo and the journal CROMOHS), the COST Action is now planning a workshop to discuss pandemics in history. The workshop aims at the production of collection of case studies edited by PIMo member David Do Paço (to appear in the Brepols series Histories in Motion).

“Historians have not been waiting for the present crisis to carry out research on pandemics. But the recent broader interest in work on this subject might help to put the pandemic in perspective and prompt everyone to learn lessons from the past two years.” says Prof Giovanni Tarantino, Historian and Chair of COST Action PIMo.

The collection of case studies will analyse the way in which urban societies have faced, coped with, and overcome pandemics.

2020-2021, COVID-19 outbreak: sparking a new interest on history of pandemics

The COVID situation is reigniting interest amongst academics in how society has dealt with such crises throughout history.

“There are many parallels in the way societies, public authorities, and the media have been coping with pandemics (including panics, paranoia, denial, racism and xenophobia, restriction of public liberties etc… but also remarkably creative coping strategies from the ground up). Reflecting historically on both the positive effects and the disruptive consequences of the coping strategies and the public health measures engineered in the past to reduce the impact of pandemics might certainly prove a valuable exercise for assessing the current management of the Covid-19 global crisis.“ adds Prof Tarantino.

The PIMo video podcast series Contagion, previously mentioned, is a series of video interviews with prominent historians on circulation and pandemic threats throughout history. It asks how individuals, groups, societies and states reacted to pandemics.

Put together during this specific timing of the COVID-19 outbreak, the series of video podcasts is a stepping stone to the work of this Action through exploring the economic, social, political, and cultural dimensions of pandemics and their impact on the evolution of societies.

By asking how individuals, groups, societies and states reacted to different pandemics, it helps to position the current situation in a larger scope and better understand how the pandemic risk has been assessed, managed, and anticipated in ordinary times by communities and public actors.

The series of videos has generated a strong interest and triggered many views from a larger audience: “The “Contagion” series of videos proved significantly successful in terms of views and audience reactions. It is still at an experimental stage, and we hope to turn it into an expanded and more professionally polished video documentary. We also hope to see more researchers from the overall COST community joining us in this remarkably topical outreach and pedagogical effort.”

More information:

– COST Action PIMo page on COST website here

– COST Action PIMo website here

– View COST Action PIMo video podcast “Contagion” here

– View COST Action PIMo Youtube channel here

Contact for scientific information

Prof Giovanni TARANTINO Action Chair +390552466778 giovanni.tarantino@unifi.it