Niagara University hosted “Care in Action,” an interdisciplinary symposium that explored how the imperative to care is impeded by the difficulty of accessing care. The conference, held on April 20 in Glynn Hall, featured panels and keynote speakers who shared insights on race, equity, and care, the ethics of healthcare, and health activism and creative practice to foster a better understanding of how care can begin to be enacted anew on our campuses and in our communities. It also included a workshop using art as a means to better care for ourselves and others.
The day began with a panel discussion of the tension between the African American and Jewish communities moderated by Dr. Terrence Johnson, Adams Professor of African American Religious Studies at Harvard Divinity School. The panelists explored how these communities can begin caring for one another by forming strategic and political solidarities with one another. The second panel brought together a number of different perspectives—students, professors, and healthcare professionals; the fields of disability studies, medicine, and gerontology—to consider the philosophical question of how we can care for one another ethically.
The event's featured speakers were Dr. Jamila Michener, associate professor in the Department of Government at Cornell University and co-director of the Cornell Center for Health Equity, whose keynote address focused on tenant organizing as one strategy for building power for health justice; and Dr. Gabriel Winant, assistant professor of US history at the University of Chicago, who concluded the day by shifting the focus of labor politics from blue-collar manufacturing to the healthcare industry, arguing that healthcare workers, as the new face of the workforce, have the capacity to translate their economic value into political power.
Dr. Michener’s research focuses on poverty, racial inequality, and public policy in the United States. Her recent book, “Fragmented Democracy: Medicaid, Federalism and Unequal Politics” examines how Medicaid--the nation’s public health insurance program for people with low income--affects democratic citizenship. Her work has been supported by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. She received her master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago and her undergraduate degree from Princeton University.
Dr. Winant is a historian of the social structures of inequality in modern American capitalism, with a particular interest on transformations in the social division of labor and the making and management of social difference through this process. He is the author of “The Next Shift: The Fall of Manufacturing and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America,” which investigates the rise of the “service economy” in the aftermath of manufacturing, and is exploring similar problems in his second project, tentatively titled “Our Weary Years: How the Working Class Survived Industrial America.” He holds a Ph.D. from Yale University.
Dr. Ajitpaul Mangat, faculty fellow in English, organized the symposium to contribute to Niagara University's initiative to be a "caring community."
“I hope this event provided members of this community, particularly students, who made up the majority of the audience, with strategies to resolve this crisis,” he said. “We all need care and want to care, and I hope this symposium will inspire and motivate us to begin summoning the resources needed to care.”
The event was sponsored by Niagara University’s Office of Academic Affairs, the Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equity and Mission, the Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Ethics in Medicine and Healthcare, the NU Library, and the Department of English.