Infection and Injustice. Narrative Responses to Pandemics

Department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine

Funding: internal university funding

Duration: 2021-2023

Carried out by:

  • Prof. Dr. Silke Schicktanz (Department for Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, Göttingen)
  • Prof. Dr. Moritz Ege (ISEK Zürich)
  • Prof. Dr. Andrew Gross (Georg-August-University Göttingen)
  • Prof. Dr. Franziska Meier (Georg-August-University Göttingen)
  • PD Dr. Richard Hölzl (Georg-August-University Göttingen)


The Corona pandemic is not the first (and probably not the last) example of an infectious disease causing a social panic. Pandemics are public health crises: they threaten not just individuals or communities, but the way communities organize themselves into publics. To better understand the current crisis, we want to explore how people frame narratives about their experiences of infection with injustice in mind.

The term injustice is not meant to refer to any particular conception of justice in jurisprudence, moral philosophy, or current law. One does not need legal training to feel that one is being treated unfairly. However, the feeling of being treated unfairly implies certain feelings about justice, fairness, social recognition, in short, the public domain. We are interested in how people channel these feelings into narratives: What is perceived as unfair? How is injustice articulated? How is it communicated and where?


To study narrative components of injustice, our interdisciplinary research group will combine approaches from literary and cultural studies, history and bioethics. We outline six topics to examine narrative responses to pandemics (ranging from Benjamin Franklin’s position on vaccines, to role of pandemics in Camus’ literary work, the formation of international health organizations, to current anti-vaccination protests and Southeastern European refugee camps). These case studies illustrate how different actors, at different places and times, connect infection and injustice. By focusing on the narrative aspects of injustice we seek to develop a typology that will allow us to compare responses and collaborate over disciplinary boundaries.


  • Workshop I: “Infection and Injustice. Narrative Responses to Pandemics – Interdisciplinary Perspectives” (05.-07. November 2021, Fulda)
  • Workshop II: “Narrating Pandemics. Transdisciplinary Approaches to Representation of Communicable Disease” (22.-24. Apr 2022, Brandenburg)
  • Workshop III: "Infection and Injustice. Narrative Responses to Pandemics. Concluding Workshop" (27.-28. Jan 2023, Göttingen)


Upcoming Edited Volume:

Narrating Pandemics: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Representations of Communicable Disease

edited by Richard Hölzl/Silke Schicktanz/Andrew Gross, UTP



Prof. Dr. Silke Schicktanz

Prof. Dr. Silke Schicktanz

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