Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Corona Crisis
Just like everyone else, the team at Tokyo College has been affected by the corona crisis and the increasingly drastic measures put into place to prevent a further spread of the pandemic. Our public lectures had to be canceled, access to the campus is restricted, and some of our members could not return to Tokyo from research trips abroad because of border shutdowns. Our new members, who joined the college on April 1, have only met with each other and the rest of the faculty online, and will continue to do so for the next weeks.
At the same time, we continue to engage with the crisis intellectually, both as citizens and as academics. In fact, reflecting on Corona seems to be an imperative closely connected to the mission of the college to create new, socially relevant knowledge in interdisciplinary contexts.
The corona crisis by its very nature as a global public health crisis demands interdisciplinary engagement. At the scientific core of the crisis lies the medical and epidemiological issue of identifying the characteristics of the virus, its effect on human health, and most importantly, potentials for the development of treatments, cures and vaccines. But the priorities for research and the reaction of health systems are not solely determined by scientific factors, but bound up in complex social, political, economic and cultural systems.
How to allocate funds? How to deal with the trade-off between minimizing deaths and minimizing the social and financial impact of the crisis? How to improve health systems on a local, national and global level so they will be able to respond better to the next pandemic? Finding answers to these questions requires the input from scholars across all disciplines from the natural sciences to the humanities.
Some of our members have already started writing about aspects of the crisis on our blog, from Flavia Baldari’s summary of a corona-related debate among Italian philosophers to Masaki Sano’s primer on how to read the corona statistics that have become part of our daily lives over the last months. Yesterday, we held a first forum for all our members where we began a more systematic exchange.
While we consider it a key responsibility of the College to engage with what has already shaped up to be the most pressing global issue of 2020, and by some probability, of the years to come, we are deeply humbled by the death toll and human suffering the corona pandemic has already caused and continues to inflict on global society.
We are also aware of the extreme uncertainty surrounding everything related to the virus: the still lacking medical knowledge about the virus and potential treatments, the uncertainty inherent in the data and statistics about spread and death cases, the uncertainty about the political measures best suited to contain the pandemic, and finally the uncertainty about the effects it will have on global society in the long term.
Despite or rather precisely because of this uncertainty, it seems crucial to continue the conversation, both among our members and beyond the confines of academia. It is in this spirit that we will share our reflections on the Tokyo College blog to offer our perspectives on some of the manifold issues and problems surrounding the fight against and effects of the pandemic.