GS405V Blog Reflection Week 2

This weeks readings focussed largely on the issue of viruses such as Ebola and AIDS in Africa. This articles discussed ideas such as the role of anthropologists in reducing the impacts and spread of viruses such as Ebola, as well as how various organizations, particularly faith based organization, are raising awareness and mobilizing against AIDS.

In the article Notes from Case Zero, the authors raise the issue of how biosecurity measures and efforts to contain viruses such as Ebola from spreading have been largely ineffective. The authors argue that the ethnographic insight of anthropologists has been an undervalued and underutilized tool in containment practices. In my opinion, I agree that anthropologists have a key role in deepening the understanding of how viruses are primarily transferred, as well as practices around how the deceased are handled, and that this information is vital to mitigation efforts around preventing large viral outbreaks. However, because anthropologists are based in ethnographic research and that research takes time to accumulate and decipher, I understand how in the midst of an epidemic their expertise would be less in demand than healthcare workers for example. Despite this, I do think that anthropologists would play a key role in ensuring that those who have died from the virus are treated in a way that adheres to the culture and beliefs of that person.

The second article by Eugene Raikhel largely builds on Notes from Case Zero by addressing more specifically the role that anthropologist could take in the event of an epidemic. Not to diminish the importance of anthropological work, but many of the suggested roles outlined by Raikhel seemed menial in that it doesn’t take a trained expert to count dead bodies or to collect data. Despite this, I do agree that anthropologists could play an important role in working towards global solutions on mitigation efforts for epidemics such as the one experienced in West Africa.

Lastly, the article The politics and anti-politics of social movements spoke more specifically towards HIIV/AIDS in Africa and the responses of religious organizations. The article takes into consideration different aspects such as resources, political contexts, collective identities and how health issues such as HIV/AIDS are framed. One of the most interesting aspects discussed in this article for me was how donor resources can have both positive and negative affects, particularly in relation to how they impose certain practices onto receiving religious organizations. I find this interesting because as the article mentions, much of the funding received by AIDS organizations in Africa comes from secular Western states who attempt to impose their bureaucratic secular ways on these organizations. This can have negative implications on the organizations themselves limiting their mobilization efforts. It seems ironic to me that one would impose restrictions on something that is effective in a way that makes it less effective in the long run.

Overall, I felt that these articles provided some different perspectives and insight onto the subject of viral epidemics in Africa and the various actors that are working to mitigate and mobilize in response.

– thwa5660


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