Sarah Willen

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.

You Should…Listen to: Regina Spektor’s Music (Sarah Willen-Anthropology)

Regina SpektorYou should listen to Regina Spektor’s music — but only if you’re ready for a brush with genius. Wild genius, that is, skyrocketing musically through the magical, heartbreaking, infuriating, absurd journey that is life. Nothing is lyrically off limits for Spektor — no topic too grand (“Laughing With”), no predicament too small (“Dance Anthem of the 80s”) to stir her imagination. A classically trained pianist  (“Après Moi”), mediocre guitarist (“That Time”), and proud immigrant to the United States — when she and her family emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1990, with support from HIAS, she was just 9 1/2 — Spektor belongs to a cadre of gifted artists (Gary Shteyngart is another) for whom American promise, Jewish otherness, Russian melancholy, and familial closeness meld in a worldview that is wise (“Samson”), joyful (“On the Radio”), and occasionally bizarre (“Pavlov’s Daughter”). Whether she’s loving on New York City (“Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)”), mourning an impossible love (“Better”), parodying Second Amendment fetishism (“Uh-Merica”), dreaming up the baby boy whose clothes she’ll someday pin funkily at the beach (“Folding Chair”), or shredding the high priests of exploitation, greed, and unctuous politics (“The Trapper and the Furrier”; “Ballad of a Politician”), Regina Spektor’s America is a place we all should visit, and linger. Oh — and I hear she wrote the theme song for “Orange is the New Black.” Is it worth watching?

 

Sarah Willen
Associate Professor of Anthropology
University of Connecticut

 

Who is Sarah Willen? Sarah Willen is an 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. She holds a PhD in Anthropology and an MPH in Global Health, both from Emory University. She is a two-time recipient of the Rudolf Virchow Prize from the Critical Anthropology of Global Health Caucus of the Society for Medical Anthropology. She is also the author of a 2019 book Fighting for Dignity: Migrant Lives at Israel’s Margins published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.