This YouTube lecture (see video on the left column), "The Rhetoric of Pandemics: Health, Politics, and the Public," evaluates the use of the term "pandemic" in light of its rhetoric in public health, politics, and communication in order to recognize the varied and wide-reaching impact of the word itself – what may be termed "pandemic literacy." While the term pandemic is rooted in health, its usage is much more far-reaching; moreover, the definition is more often assumed than explicitly stated, resulting in fluid meanings of the term to suit a particular agenda. This is not to deny the reality of a pandemic by any means but rather to suggest how complicated the labeling of pandemic is in light of the different rhetorics that can be applied. As such, the lecture focuses on three examples of pandemic usage to describe COVID-19 that were used to persuade within different arenas: the World Health Organization (health), President Trump (politics), and social media (communication). Understanding the range of concerns and the impact of using a public health term like pandemic offers insight into the rhetorical weight of any health term and emphasizes that these health discussions must occur in disciplines beyond medicine and public health.
This lecture is one of nine lectures of the COVID-19 and the Humanities lecture series, which was funded by an NEH CARES Act grant. Other lectures may also be of interest for the project; they can be found here.
This particular lecture considers how understanding definitional terminology and rhetorical usage of words (in this case "pandemic") influences the effectiveness of communication and policy. These observations are meant to put pressure on how organizations and individuals use language within health care/public health, with the implied intention of producing better outcomes.
Explore the Humanities pathways that led to this project
Dallas, Pennsylvania, USA