Diplomacy in the Time of Cholera

Maria Rentetzi, Flavio D’Abramo and Roberto Lalli,

Turning everyday ordinary happenings into struggling moments for existence—from breathing to socializing—is how the Covid-19 pandemic will mark history. What we asked during this unforeseeable pandemic was not how the ordinary becomes abnormal but how it becomes political and diplomatic. We argued that the spread of the Covid-19 virus, which is measured through virologic and epidemiological models, overlaps with feverous diplomatic and political activities taking place among big geopolitical powers. Yet, this is not new in history of health. The first encounters between diplomats and health professionals were elicited by the social and economic challenges caused, on a global scale, by the cholera epidemics of the nineteenth century. Indeed, health sciences and diplomacy have been historically co-produced. Such a historical perspective on science and health diplomacy facilitates our understanding of international institutions such as the World Health Organization as highly political and diplomatic endeavors. The Diplomatic Studies of Science, a new interdisciplinary research field underpinned by a historical perspective on science diplomacy, sheds light on the multiple factors contributing to the worsening of the global COVID-19 crisis we are facing nowadays.

Link to the video: https://www.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/video/diplomacy-time-cholera