Living Together in Dangerous Times

Mar 16, 2020

The current coronavirus threat offers us a mirror of our relationships with others and how we respond to it will reveal the traces of our shared humanity.

As Frank Snowden has recently noted in his book, Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present, "Epidemic diseases are not random events that afflict societies capriciously and without warning. On the contrary, every society produces its own vulnerabilities. To study them is to understand that society's structure, its standard of living, and its political priorities."

Cadava is Professor of English at Princeton University, where he also is affiliated with the...

Aaron Levy, PhD, MPhil was the Executive Director and Chief Curator of Slought (2002-2022), a...

What is perhaps most urgent now is our effort to understand how political interests, racial and economic discrimination, the unequal distribution of wealth and resources, the relations between climate and health or between poverty and illness, and the extent of our care for the environment and the people who live alongside us all contribute to our physical and moral health. Indeed, how we respond to crises like the ones we face today reveals our values, commitments, and our sense of how we share the worlds in which we live and even die.

Slought's gallery spaces will remain closed for the moment and we have postponed all upcoming events out of concern for the health and well-being of our publics, including those at the Health Ecologies Lab and the Social Justice and Arts Integration Initiative. However, we are in the process of curating a series of online programs, several of which will reactivate elements from our vast archive of events over the last 18 years and, in particular, elements that we believe resonate with and even respond to our current global and local urgencies. We hope that, in this way, we can continue to engage the most pressing issues we face, but with resources that we have all already been putting in place and that draw from the wisdom and strength offered to us by the arts and the humanities, and not only these.

We will initiate these activities soon and we hope that it can serve as a kind of training manual for living together in this unprecedented global health crisis—that it can perhaps provide us with resources for thinking about our present situation even as it can perhaps give us strength and reinforcement in this uncertain time. We will also be inviting our audiences and constituencies to contribute to this ongoing curatorial work and to join us in thinking together about what we can learn from the current crisis and how we might better prepare for future ones.

We recognize that this moment is especially precarious for our most vulnerable communities—among so many others, the elderly, those with chronic illnesses, the incarcerated, the undocumented and homeless. We will continue to advocate for the importance and even duty of community care, and we welcome any suggestions and resources that we can share and further disseminate.