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Missing Bodies and Secret Funerals: The Production of “Safe and Dignified Burials” in the Liberian Ebola Crisis

During the height of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, public health responders and the international media focused on dead bodies as sites of disease transmission when early contact tracing discovered the relationship between attendance at funerals and emerging clusters of new cases. Anthropologists were central to the emergence of new protocols for “safe and […]

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Epidemics (Especially Ebola)

Anthropology’s response to the West African Ebola epidemic was one of the most rapid and expansive anthropological interventions to a global health emergency in the discipline’s history. This article sets forth the size and scale of the anthropological response and describes the protagonists, interventions, and priorities for anthropological engagement. It takes an inclusive approach to […]

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Emerging Disease or Emerging Diagnosis?: Lassa Fever and Ebola in Sierra Leone

It has become routine to attribute the tragedy of the West African Ebola epidemic to inexperience and lack of knowledge. The states and citizens of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone were portrayed as entirely unfamiliar with Ebola and therefore without relevant knowledge. The simplicity of this narrative is disturbed by the experience of Lassa Fever, […]

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Ebola Through a Glass, Darkly: Ways of Knowing the State and Each Other

The Ebola epidemic unfolded in radically divergent manners in two neighboring villages in Sierra Leone, with one recording 40 cases and 20 deaths and the other recording zero cases, though they are located only 100 meters apart. Presented with identical information about Ebola’s cause and modes of transmission, one chief reacted by attempting to shield […]

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Historical Parallels, Ebola Virus Disease and Cholera: Understanding Community Distrust and Social Violence with Epidemics

In the three West African countries most affected by the recent Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, resistance to public health measures contributed to the startling speed and persistence of this epidemic in the region. But how do we explain this resistance, and how have people in these communities understood their actions? By comparing these recent […]

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Engaging ‘Communities’: Anthropological Insights from the West African Ebola Epidemic

The recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa highlights how engaging with the sociocultural dimensions of epidemics is critical to mounting an effective outbreak response. Community engagement was pivotal to ending the epidemic and will be to post-Ebola recovery, health system strengthening and future epidemic preparedness and response. Extensive literatures in the social sciences have emphasized […]

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Comparison of Social Resistance to Ebola Response in Sierra Leone and Guinea Suggests Explanations Lie in Political Configurations not Culture

Sierra Leone and Guinea share broadly similar cultural worlds, straddling the societies of the Upper Guinea Coast with Islamic West Africa. There was, however, a notable difference in their reactions to the Ebola epidemic. As the epidemic spread in Guinea, acts of violent or everyday resistance to outbreak. Reducing spread repeatedly followed, undermining public health […]

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The First Mile: Community Experience of Outbreak Control during an Ebola Outbreak in Luwero District, Uganda

A major challenge to outbreak control lies in early detection of viral haemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) in local community contexts during the critical initial stages of an epidemic, when risk of spreading is its highest (“the first mile”). In this paper we document how a major Ebola outbreak control effort in central Uganda in 2012 was […]

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Understanding Social Resistance to the Ebola Response in the Forest Region of the Republic of Guinea: An Anthropological Perspective

Why did Ebola response initiatives in the Upper Guinea Forest Region regularly encounter resistance, occasionally violent? Extending existing explanations concerning local and humanitarian “culture” and “structural violence,” and drawing on previous anthropological fieldwork and historical and documentary research, this article argues that Ebola disrupted four intersecting but precarious social accommodations that had hitherto enabled radically […]

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Extending the “Social”: Anthropological Contributions to the Study of Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers

Emerging Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers (VHFs) offer a frontier for a “One-Health” research agenda; the joined-up, or collaborative, effort of multiple disciplines to attain optimal health for people, animals, and the environment (e.g. http://www.onehealthinitiative.com/). Multidisciplinary work on Lassa Fever and Ebola Virus Disease in Guinea and Sierra Leone explores the connections between humans, rodents such as […]

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