The Covid-19 pandemic has made the hospital a topic of daily newspapers— and medical expertise into the stuff of popular talk shows. Against the background of the omnipresence of the hospital in the media in the past two years, this international conference seeks to revisit and rethink the ‘hospital’ as a place that is at the same time universal and locally specific: a complex where science becomes embedded in societal and political questions, and where technology meets ethical demands.
Current trends in Switzerland see an increasing centralization of the hospital as a mega-institution with centers of excellence, leading to the closure or transformation of small regional hospitals. By contrast, in Italy the persistence and adaptation of old hospital structures is more prevalent. In both cases hospitals remain embedded in local environments, be they urban or rural, and they are shaped by local political and financial contexts. Inside the hospital, too, the situation of staff and patients mirrors broader societal questions, power relations and demands of specific societies and cultures. Ultimately, the pandemic has reminded us that hospitals and their infrastructures need to remain extremely flexible and adjust to sometimes sudden developments in public health and medical knowledge.
With this conference, Istituto Svizzero aims to present and connect ongoing research on the hospital from different disciplinary angles. By bringing into dialogue historical and contemporary perspectives, the conference also seeks to contribute to a historically informed understanding of the challenges hospitals face today and in the future.