Week 2 Readings: The Political Economy of Disease in Africa: From AIDS to Ebola

This weeks articles focus on the social implications in fighting AIDS and Ebola in Africa.

Saez and Abramowitz both discuss the multiple ways that Anthropologists could assist in fighting the current Ebola outbreak.

Saez asserts that social scientists have an important role to play in addressing the epidemic. Anthropologists have gained knowledge from their past research that would be valuable in this situation as well as having the ability to conduct further ethnographic research to gain a better understanding of how the disease was spreading and how to prevent it from spreading further.  Saez discusses burial practices as an example. Saez explains that attending a burial and having physical contact with the deceased is a social practice of kinship. Saez asserts that changing burial practices would improve hygiene and according to Anthropologists would drastically alter  a cultural social practice. Saez asserts that anthropologists knowledge of social practices can impact how the epidemic is treated.

Abramowitz also asserts that Anthropologists have valuable knowledge and experience to provide in helping to resolve the situation. However, Abramowitz details ten specific reasons that Anthropologists can contribute to fighting the Ebola epidemic. The ten reasons include anthropologists coming together as a community to strategize on possible solutions, sharing their network of local contacts with global health experts, teaching epidemiologists how to count the dead in West Africa. Abramowitz provides detailed explanations of each of the ten ways anthropologists could assist with the Ebola epidemic in Africa.

The third article discuses the interaction between religion and HIV/AIDS. The article discusses how religious actors mobilize in addressing the health concerns. Burchardt explains that

religious actors may mobilize to engage other actors in shaping policies or could instead shun politics in the prevision of services.

I found Saez and Abramowitz articles detailing how anthropologists could assist with the Ebola epidemic to be the most interesting. Prior to reading these articles, I was unaware of how much Anthropologists could contribute to the situation. While, the articles were interesting in detailing how Anthropologists could assist, lacked information on how Anthropologists have assisted in similar situations. All three articles lacked further background knowledge on the Ebola epidemic and on AIDS.

Discussion Question

Abramowitz mentions a phone call with Doctors without Borders in her article when she was told that Medical Anthropologists were only asked for assistance on rare occasions. In what circumstance would Medical Anthropologists be called upon to provide assistance.What makes the current Ebola epidemic not one of these circumstances?


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