Ethnography can help in West Africa’s Ebola virus epidemic

Ebola in Perspective by Daniel Hoffman and Mary Moran

Sharon Abramowitz’s article on the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa has received much attention in the media and elsewhere: 10 Things that Anthropologists Can Do to Fight the West African Ebola Epidemic. Professor Abramowitz recently participated in a panel on Ebola held at Georgetown University and featured on C-Span.

Today Sara Reardon, an author for Nature, published an interview with her: Ethnography could help in Ebola crisis. A brief excerpt:

People are adapting. In Sierra Leone, instead of touching hands, people are bumping elbows, and in northern Liberia people are tapping feet if they’re wearing shoes. I understand that some places have laws to have a bucket with 1% bleach placed outside every business site and people have to wash their hands going in and out. Ecobank [the Pan African bank] has implemented a policy whereby only five people at a time are allowed in the bank at a time to withdraw money.

You go, Sharon! We posted about her new book here recently.

There’s more! The latest Fieldsights includes a set of related “Hot Spots” essays, Ebola in Perspective now available at the Cultural Anthropology journal’s website:

Since early 2014, the international coverage of Africa has been dominated by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Much of that coverage represents the region as helpless and hopeless, a tragic victim of illogical beliefs and dangerous cultural practices. The contributors to this Hot Spots series offer their personal and professional experience in this region as a critical counter-argument. The essays collected here explore the political landscapes that make the state itself both a vector for and victim of this disease (Abramowitz, Ammann, Batty, Ferme, Harman, Nguyen); they write of the social realities of funeral practices, both their limits and their potential for change (Richards); they write of the media coverage of the disease and the complex ways in which information flows in and around the region (McGovern); they write of the way Ebola discourse has entered popular culture (Benton, Tucker), occult narratives (Bolten), and the diasporic imaginary (Sayegh, Wesley); and they write of the complicated ways it links to the region’s history of violence (Schroven, Soderstrom).

From: Introduction to “Ebola in Perspective” by Daniel Hoffman and Mary Moran.

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