Pandemic as portal: remembering Covid, re-imagining society

Dr Mark Honigsbaum

portrait of a nurse wearing a mask
This is a past event
Date and time
23 May 2023
6.30 pm
£10.00 (non-members)


Did the Covid pandemic change anything? And what will its legacy be?

In an influential essay published at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the novelist and activist Arundhati Roy described Covid-19 as a “portal” and an opportunity to re-imagine society and the sort of planet we wished to leave to our children.

But three years on, Roy’s vision of social, spiritual and planetary renewal looks increasingly utopian. Rather than being a “great leveller”, as some experts had hoped at the outset of the pandemic, Covid exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and accentuated political divisions.

On top of that, the pandemic didn’t result in the promised “great reset” in living and working conditions. Nor did it galvanise the world to finally address climate change.

In this talk, Dr Mark Honigsbaum will look at the history of pandemics, examining when and how they have acted as catalysts for social and political change – and when they haven’t ­. He will then assess the impacts of Covid-19 and its likely historical legacy.

mark honigsbaum

Dr Mark Honigsbaum

Dr Mark Honigsbaum is a medical historian, journalist and academic with wide-ranging interests encompassing science, technology and contemporary culture. He is a regular contributor to The Lancet and The Observer, he is the author of five books including The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria and Hubris (2019), which was named a “heath book of the year” by the Financial Times.

A former Wellcome Research Fellow, Mark is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Journalism at City, University of London, where he teaches on the science reporting MA and is researching the relationship between Covid-19 and cultural memory.

Sign up to our newsletter

Sign up to our e-newsletter to receive exclusive content and all the latest Lit & Phil news

* indicates required