Reading Camus’ The Plague In A Time of Pandemic
By Georgina Chavez '21
This quarter, I had the opportunity to work with Professor Riley and Professor DeCosse on a website exhibiting Albert Camus’ The Plague for this year’s Twin Pandemics Conference, an interdisciplinary forum discussing two pandemics that this nation, and the world, are confronting: COVID-19 and racial injustice. About three dozen departments and organizations across the university came together to offer unique perspectives and different angles from which to process and reflect on our experiences of COVID-19, our long history of structural and institutional racism, and the relationship between the two. Injustices drawn along socio-economic and racial lines, including access to basic needs such as food, housing, and healthcare, all contribute to COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on unhoused, low-income, and BIPOC communities.
During spring quarter, faculty members from the Religious Studies department and other disciplines across the university met to discuss Albert Camus’ The Plague, each bringing their own insights and expertise to the discussion, and reflecting on their experiences of COVID-19 and sheltering in place and their reactions to the events surrounding the murder of George Floyd in late May. This exhibit captures their insights and the sense of community that emerged from this reading group.
For this exhibit, eight reading group members read a brief passage from The Plague, and offered a reflection on their connections to the passage they had chosen. Each member offered a different lens from which to explore the nuances of the Twin Pandemics, ranging from healing and justice, to the economic implications of the pandemics, the true boldness of solidarity and our connections to those most marginalized in our own neighborhoods, and the importance of turning away from distractions and choosing to turn towards the pain and suffering within ourselves, in those around us, and in our communities.
Professor Giddings reflects, “Camus knew that human nature would not change even though the plague brought some sense of it. Some things never change.” I don’t know to what extent human nature can be changed, but I believe interdisciplinary conversations like these allow us to not only enrich our understanding of our experiences and the injustices in our society, but they also allow us to deepen our awareness of the interconnectedness and unity between ourselves and others by connecting our own lives and disciplinary interests to the experiences and reflections of those around us. Through these conversations, we can hopefully grow in compassion, bold solidarity and love. I hope you enjoy the exhibit!
Georgina Chavez is a Senior at Santa Clara University studying Psychology and minoring in Religious Studies. She loves reading, gardening, neatly organizing her pins on Pinterest, and her Catholic faith.