Democracy and Public Health: Experiences in New York City with Merlin Chowkwanyun in conversation with Celina Su

Thursday, March 30, 2023

7:00 pm — 8:30 pm

1201: Elebash Recital Hall

Open to the Public

Join Merlin Chowkwanyun & Celina Su for a discussion on the history of public health policies in NYC, the divergent experiences among different races & neighborhoods during the pandemic, & how public health crises can both trouble and renew democracy. This event will be ASL interpreted.

Merlin Chowkwanyun and Celina Su
Merlin Chowkwanyun and Celina Su
Admission Price



This is an in-person event. Registration required.

Please click here to register.

About the event

The Covid-19 pandemic laid bare the cracks in our social contract, both locally and nationally, yet it also renewed interest in civic engagement and rearticulated our common purpose. An examination of the diverse ordeals of New Yorkers prompts questions about the relationship between local health infrastructures, the American federal system, and our democratic society.

Humanities New York, in partnership with the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center, presents a conversation with Merlin Chowkwanyun and Celina Su. This discussion will focus on the history of public health policies in New York City, the divergent experiences among different races within distinct neighborhoods during the pandemic, and how public health crises can both trouble and renew democratic society.

Click here to Register and attend this event in person.

About the Speakers

Merlin Chowkwanyun is the Donald Gemson Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University. He is the author of All Health Politics is Local: Community Battles for Medical Care and Environmental Health and is now working on a book, Who Dies?, to be published by W.W. Norton, which re-assesses how to think about the non-biomedical determinants of health. He is also the Principal Investigator on, an NSF-funded repository that uses novel data science methods to make available millions of once-secret documents on industrial poisons. He currently serves on an Expert Advisory Committee for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on structural racism.

Celina Su is the Marilyn J. Gittell Chair in Urban Studies and a Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York. Her work focuses on everyday struggles for collective governance; her current book project centering radical democracy, Budget Justice: Racial Solidarities & Politics From Below, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press. Celina has served on New York City's participatory budgeting Steering Committee since its inception in 2011. Her publications include Streetwise for Book Smarts: Grassroots Organizing and Education Reform in the Bronx (Cornell University Press) and pieces in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, n+1, and elsewhere.

About the series

This event launches a series of public discussions around the city, to be held in neighborhoods where the local community’s relationship with public health practitioners and elected officials may be very different - close or distant to power, in agreement or conflict. Any non-profit organization in New York City that identifies a facilitator is eligible to apply to host one of these conversations, which include a toolkit and grant funding. Applications will be available on our website on April 1st.

This event and the following Community Conversations programs are generously supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

About Humanities New York

Using dialogue, reflection, and critical thinking, Humanities New York applies the humanities to strengthen democratic society. Founded in 1975, Humanities New York is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and is the sole statewide proponent of public access to the humanities. HNY is a private 501(c)3, tax-exempt organization.

About the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center

The Center for the Humanities encourages collaborative and creative work in the humanities at CUNY and across the city through interdisciplinary projects, publications, and public events. Free and open to the public, our programs aim to inspire sustained, engaged conversation and to forge an open and diverse intellectual community.


This event is organized and sponsored by Humanities New York, and is co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, Public Programs, and the Gittell Urban Studies Collective at the CUNY Graduate Center, and the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.

Click here for more information about this event.



CUNY attendees must show proof of vaccination by presenting a valid CUNY Access Pass through the CLEARED4 health validation platform upon entry. Non-CUNY visitors will need to show proof of ID by presenting a valid government-issued photo document. See the full Building Entry Policy for more information.