Pandemic Journaling Project

Fellow’s Talk: Sarah Willen on Journaling the Pandemic

“Journaling the Pandemic: What 20,000 Journal Entries Can Tell Us About COVID-19—and Ourselves.” Future of Truth Fellow Sarah Willen, with a response by Erik Freeman. November 10, 2021, 4:00pm. Homer Babbidge Library, 4-209.

Journaling the Pandemic: What 20,000 Journal Entries Can Tell Us About COVID-19—and Ourselves

Sarah Willen (Associate Professor, Anthropology, UConn)

with a response by Erik Freeman (History, UConn)

Wednesday, November 10, 2021, 4:00pm. Homer Babbidge Library, 4-209.

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The event will also be livestreamed with automated captioning.

To attend virtually, register here

What does it mean to keep a journal, and why might someone choose to journal about COVID-19? What belongs in a pandemic journal, and what might journalers hope to accomplish by keeping one? In this talk, anthropologist Sarah Willen engages these questions by introducing the Pandemic Journaling Project (PJP), a combined journaling platform and research study she co-created in May 2020 that lets anyone around the world produce a weekly record of their pandemic experiences by uploading text, audio, and photographs using a smartphone or other device. By October 2021, over 1,600 people in more than 50 countries had contributed over 20,000 journal entries. How are members of PJP’s diverse journaling community using this online space to chronicle the impact of the pandemic on their everyday lives? What can we learn—about COVID-19, our times, ourselves, and scholarship itself—by studying the COVID-19 journals people keep? Join us and find out.

Sarah S. Willen is Associate Professor of Anthropology at UConn and Director of the Research Program on Global Health and Human Rights at the university’s Human Rights Institute. A critical medical anthropologist with a strong phenomenological bent, she has published widely on topics ranging from the sociopolitical dynamics and lived experiences of illegalized migration and human rights activism, to everyday understandings of deservingness, dignity, and flourishing in Israel/Palestine and the U.S. She is author or editor of four books, five special issues, and many articles and book chapters, including the multiple award-winning monograph, Fighting for Dignity: Migrant Lives at Israel’s Margins (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019). Sarah is Principal Investigator of ARCHES (the AmeRicans’ Conceptions of Health Equity Study), a three-year, interdisciplinary study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Co-Founder of the Pandemic Journaling Project—the focus of her UCHI talk and project.

Erik Freeman is the Draper Dissertation Fellow at the University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute and a doctoral candidate in UConn’s Department of History. He earned a B.A. in French at Brigham Young University in 2008 and an M.A. in History at Brandeis University in 2013. Since 2013, he has served as an instructor of history at Choate Rosemary Hall, in Wallingford, Connecticut, where he has taught courses on environmental history, environmental policy, American history, European history, and the American West. Erik’s article “‘True Christianity’: The Flowering and Fading of Mormonism and Romantic Socialism in Nineteenth-Century France,” won the Best Article Award at the Communal Studies Association’s annual conference in 2018, and the Best International Article Award from the Mormon Historical Association in 2019.

If you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057. We can request ASL interpreting, computer-assisted real time transcription, and other accommodations offered by the Center for Students with Disabilities.

Congratulations to Sarah Willen and the Pandemic Journaling Project

The Pandemic Journaling Project (PJP) met an important milestone recently—one full year of gathering journal entries from people around the world about the impact of the pandemic in their lives. In that time, more than 1,500 journalers in over 45 countries—including the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, India, and elsewhere—have contributed over 15,000 journal entries. You can experience a sample of those journal entries, in English and Spanish, on their featured entries page. The project has received local, national, and international media attention, including a feature on the cover of the New York Times Science section. Learn more about the project by reading the project overview, or watching the PJP at one-year video:

The goal of the Pandemic Journaling Project is to make sure that ordinary people struggling through this pandemic have their voices heard, and their experiences remembered. Historical records tend to favor the powerful and the well-connected, and by soliciting journal entries from all kinds of voices, PJP ensures that future historians will be able to reconstruct how the pandemic affected the everyday lives of a wide array of people. You can listen to some of those voices in their anniversary sound collage:

UCHI is proud to have been an early supporter of the project, and we’re very excited that PJP co-founder Sarah S. Willen will join our 20th-anniversary cohort of fellows this fall as our Future of Truth Fellow. As Future of Truth Fellow, Sarah will launch a book project, tentatively titled, “Chronicling the Meantime,” that explores how PJP’s remarkably diverse community of journalers has used this unique online space to chronicle the impact of the pandemic on the warp and woof of everyday life—for their own purposes, and for posterity.

You Should…Pre-Election Edition. Part V

In advance of the upcoming election, we’ve asked members of the UCHI community to suggest a book, article, poem, painting, video, or piece of music that they think everyone should take a look at in this current moment.

Melanie Newport says you should read…

Dan Royles, To Make the Wounded Whole: The African American Struggle Against HIV / AIDS (UNC Press, 2020). This humane and timely book recounts how people fought against racism and for safety, healing, and political power during a global epidemic.

Book cover of Dan Royles' To Make the Wounded Whole


Shaine Scarminach says you should watch…

Peter Watkins’s film La Commune (2000), to see how ordinary people can seize the reins of history and build a better world.

Promotional image for the film La Commune. A woman, her back to the viewer, reads a broadside.
Promotional image from the film

Sarah Willen says you should consider journaling…

with the Pandemic Journaling Project. This combined journaling platform and research study, hosted right here at UConn, has become an online space for chronicling the turbulent world swirling around us—and for glimpsing others’ experiences of these wild times. In about 15 minutes a week, you can create your own downloadable journal in writing, audio, or images. To see public posts contributed by folx around the United States and the world (over 550 journalers in 24 countries so far), check out PJP’s Featured Entries page.

How will you tell your COVID-19 story to your children & grandchildren? The Pandemic Journaling Project.


Contributors

Melanie Newport is assistant professor of history at the University of Connecticut and a 2020–21 UCHI Faculty Fellow. She is affiliated faculty in the American Studies, Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, and Urban and Community Studies programs. She teaches urban history and criminal justice history at UConn’s Hartford campus. She holds a BA from Pacific Lutheran University, an MA from the University of Utah, and PhD from Temple University. She is a contributor to Oral History, Community, and Work in the American West and a forthcoming volume, New Histories of Black Chicago. Newport’s work has been supported by the Center for the Humanities at Temple, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, and the University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Chicago libraries.

Shaine Scarminach is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History and a 2020–21 UCHI Dissertation Research Scholar. He received a BA in history from the University of San Francisco and an MA in history from California State University, Los Angeles. He studies the history of the U.S. in the World, with an emphasis on the historical relationship between U.S. empire, world capitalism, and the global environment. His research has been supported by the Tinker Foundation, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, and the Rockefeller Archive Center.

Sarah S. Willen, PhD, MPH is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut and Director of the Research Program on Global Health and Human Rights at the university’s Human Rights Institute. A former NIMH Postdoctoral Fellow in Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, she holds a PhD in Anthropology and an MPH in Global Health, both from Emory University. She is one of the co-founders of the Pandemic Journaling Project.