Week 2 — Political Economy of Disease in Africa: AIDS to Ebola

Breeanna Campbell – 110671150

The theme for this week is the Political Economy of Disease in Africa: AIDS to Ebola. The first article that was explored: “The politics and anit-politics of social movements: religion and HIV/AIDS in Africa,” provided historical rooting and situating for concepts revolving around disease in this continent. The article focused primarily on religious practices and how they relate to disease. Thus demonstrating how the dynamic correlation between social sciences and aid is an irreplaceable, necessary tool. The second article: “Note from Case Zero: Anthropology in the time of Ebola” explains the utility of anthologists by illustrating the ethnographic work of Almudena Mari Saez. The article explains how through her research (along with many other social science research) we can gain a more developed and critical understanding of the entire epidemic – in cases such as Ebola and AIDS – rather than simply a bio-centric comprehension. This deep understanding can help future prevention and community cohesion. The third and final article: “Ten things Anthropologists can do to fight the West African Ebola epidemic”, much like the second, discusses how anthropologists can be used as resources to help a intermediary between the medical professionals (who have less of an understanding of the social implications beings disrupted) and the families/local community (who may not trust authorities –for reasons such as corruption- and not want to surrender their family members over to medical centers run predominately by foreign medical practices. The article provides 10 relevant reasons and explanations for how/why anthologists could be beneficial. A few of the actions they discuss are the following: effective measures for counting the dead, explaining local perspectives (after careful observation), identify health risks, and providing education and support for the local population. All of these articles strengthened my prior opinion, that there is a definite need for anthropologists in all stages of these epidemics. Their knowledge on cultural practices and religious beliefs must be utilities as much as possible, especially in times of such family and community turmoil. However, in my opinion, it was not clear in the articles whether they writers were pushing towards sending Western anthologists or if they felt as though an integration of African anthropologists would be sufficient. This is my biggest question. Is there a need for Western “intervention”? Would African locals/anthropologists not inherently possess the ability to understand their cultural needs and, be able provide the most insight into how their cultural practices (ex. Hunting) influence the spreading and/or the prevention of disease? OR Is there in fact a justifiable reason to bring in non-native anthropologists to access the situations? I found these readings to provide a decent initial foundation of knowledge into this topic however, collectively, they lacked a full exploration of the complex dynamics that influence and impact these diseases. The articles only briefly discussed the social and biomedical approaches to AIDS and Ebola, and could have benefitted from discussion on the political and economic complexities as well.

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