Week 2 Blog Post

Mary Crawford – 110209140

The material covered in the second week of class only triggered one response from me: frustration. The article “Ten things that Anthropologists can do to fight Ebola in the West” caused a mix of feelings as I could understand their point of view but wrestled with whether not it was necessary. It seemed futile to send anthropologists from euro-centric countries to gawk at the sick in order to provide reports when the true reality is that MDs are needed not PhDs. There does need to be a middle ground between the local communities and the international community but why can’t the anthropologist employed for this project be FROM AFRICA? Locals who know the customs and cultures not because they have studied it but because they have lived it. Locals are a lot less likely to trust foreigners than someone who grew up in the next town over who speak their language, rather than someone speaking through a translator. There are circumstances in which there is a need for someone to help with communication and understanding such as in Haiti when the purification tablets were not used due to fear. In this situation, elders and community leaders were educated by the doctors and were than sent to pass on this information to the people, therefore proving there is no need for outsiders to attempt to intervene. Anthropologists back home have also played a role in educating the Canadian population. Advertisements have popped up on my own Facebook account and twitter. This is clearly an attempt to convince the public that they are not at risk since most of the posts have been statistics about cases in North America, how many have been cured, chances are of catching it, etc. Although this calm, assertive voice is not the case in the United States (have you seen Fox News lately?!). This call to arms from the author should not be for the armchair professors of anthropology in North America but rather an encouragement to organizations working in the field to hire locals to improve communication and build trust.

Furthermore, the third article covers religion and HIV/AIDS but lacked any historical context or background information on the topic. There could have been much more discussion on the stigmatization about AIDS and how that in itself has caused for the spread of mental health issues and a rise in depression. Still to this day, questionnaires must be filled out prior to donating blood and your sexual orientation and whether or not you have had sexual intercourse with and “African gay man” determines whether or not you can give. Why is it that secular organizations still stigmatize against homosexuals? If anthropologists want to help, they can start within their own communities and improve how people are educated on the disease. Overall the article seemed to be an over-generalization of the problem and pushed a western methodology rather than one that would work within African cultures.


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.

Week 2 Post

The readings this week draw an almost linear connection between the epidemics of aids to the epidemic of Ebola and the social movements involved in both. All three articles examine and unravel the underlying issues of why diseases such as these become such an epidemic. A common theme throughout is the role of an Anthropologist and the idea that just the death rate, or the rapid spread of a disease should not be the only concerning attribute. At many times the approach the world takes to the help mend this crisis is culturally insensitive and all three articles do a good job at helping the reader understand why. Burchardt especially emphasizes that effect social literature has and is continuing to be very heavily rooted in Western media, experience and academia. Many times the social movements and religion within Africa are completely ignored because the country lacks the legitimacy due to being a third world country.

The article ‘Ten things that Anthropologists’ can do to fight the West Africa Ebola Epidemic I found to be particularly interesting because of what the author is trying to articulate. After reading all the ways Anthropologists are able to address epidemics such as Ebola it seemed to be providing a solution to mend the gap between the local and global. I think this article does both of what it was intended to – empower anthropologists to continue their involvement in the Ebola epidemic especially and alerting organizations such as WHO that they bring great knowledge and ethnographic experience to the table. Especially when explaining the instead of “blaming the system” anthropologists are able to make sense of the local through ethnographic research. At times during both aids and the Ebola outbreak they were the only actors physically involved in talking to the local and understanding their social movements. In the article ‘The Politics and Anti-Politics of Social Movements: Religion and HIV/AIDS in Africa’ the author expresses that because of the local understanding of the religion and power structures of Africa, their own movements are lost in translation. On the other hand, it makes sense that even though the religion and a local level is important can Anthropologists really make a distract difference. The conversation between the WHO representatives may almost be warranted. Everyone always seems to have a better way to fix something and the two articles explaining the ways Anthropologists can fix things seems a bit pretentious. Africa already relies heavily on foreign aid and since the Ebola breakout the aid and support system has increased I can’t seem to believe that the interstation of Anthropologists is going to make a drastic change.

When it comes to the idea of religion within Africa and the movements such as Neo-Pentecostal and how these things have had such a positive effect on the Aids outbreak I wonder if there is any type of way Anthropologists could coincide with the local social movements? Also if Anthropologists have such great experience and knowledge with outbreaks such as these, why are there not more active organizations?

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

The focus of the three readings assigned for this week all pertain to ways in which disease is being controlled and subjugated in Sub-Saharan Africa, where both the Ebola virus and HIV/AIDS in particular infects large quantities of the population. The articles written by Abramowitz and Sáez focus on the Ebola outbreak that has spread to countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Nigeria, etc. Through an anthropological stance, the authors examine the primary transmission of the virus through animal-human contact. The resistance of local populations to the disease control methods that have been implemented is also discussed, in efforts to demonstrate some of the incongruences and failures of such measures thus far. It is seen that the methods used to control the disease is not compatible with certain cultural practices of the local people adding to the stress and fear that is being proliferated here. The proceedings of funeral rituals in particular have been altered as a result of disease control methods, which have lead to resistance.

This is a very interesting finding, as it demonstrates a very relevant issue that can be applied to many other conflicts that developing countries are facing. The failure of these methods demonstrates the inability of aid organizations to adapt to the needs and values of each specific country. In cases of foreign aid being delivered too often we see a single, uniform method of providing help that is constructed by outside nations that rarely take into account the diversity of such countries. It is clear that the inability of the aid organizations to gain an understanding of the concerns of the local people is hindering the success of disease control methods. The critical role of anthropologists in providing information regarding the needs and concerns of the population is evidently being overlooked, and these articles are bringing to light the importance of anthropological work.

The article The politics and anti-politics of social movements: religion and HIV/AIDS in Africa focuses specifically on HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, while examining the role religious mobilizations and Neo-Pentecostal churches play in curtailing the transmission of this virus. Upon the examination of the relationship between religion and AIDS it is apparent that positive and negative outcomes are being experienced. An interesting connection between the three articles is that they place emphasis on the exploration of alternative measures in controlling the spread of disease, other than the conventional biomedical methods. Such alternatives are of equal importance within responses to disease related epidemics despite the fact that they are often overlooked; which is exactly what these articles have intended to convey to readers.

Questions: How should anthropologist tackle the issue of being disregarded by health care organizations, and allow for their work to be acknowledged? What are the implications of secular Western nations involvement within foreign countries? Does this affect the ability of health care organizations to administer health care effectively?

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

The article, The politics and anti-politics of social movements: religion and HIV/AIDS in Africa discusses how religion plays a role in the HIV/AIDS pandemic focusing on the idea of religious mobilization. Burchardt et al., mention how global norms and institutions have an influence on the how the mobilization surrounding HIV/AIDS occurs. Religious institutions and movements have had a significant role in responses to the pandemic, allowing individuals to try and make sense of the disease.

In  Notes from Case Zero: Anthropology in the time of Ebola, the authors raise the idea that there is a failure of biosecurity methods, as there is a knowledge gap towards biomedical practices. This is a gap in which anthropologists could assists in closing. The article mentions how anthropologists tested for situations where Ebola can be transmitted, specifically, which animal was the transmitter of the virus. In the case, it was bats. The anthropologists furthered their study by examining human-bat relations. The article highlights how ethnographic work can help diminish some of the stereotypes or stories that put the blame of the outbreak on the local populations.

The final article, Ten Things that Anthropologists Can Do to Fight the West African Ebola Epidemic discusses how anthropologists are needed as resources to understand and establish new ways to confront the Ebola crisis. Abramowitz lists ten actions that anthropologists could take such as observing and interpreting local viewpoints on the response to the Ebola epidemic. I believe that in order to make sense of the local beliefs and behaviours, anthropologists need to be on the scene and integrate into communities to clasp a more meaningful understanding of the crisis.

Burchardt et al., discuss how religious organizations such as Christian and Muslim ones, have a role in containing the disease as well as treating it. The Neo-Pentecostal movement is an example of how religious movements have had an influential effect in the HIV/AIDS response by minimizing the transmission of the disease. Both Saez et al., and Abramowitz highlight how anthropologists can be assigned to examine traditional practices and the spread of Ebola. The article also mentions a conversation that a medical anthropologists had with Medicines Sans Frontiers offering to help, however their help was denied. Their help should not be ignored but rather anthropologists should be useful resources. Anthropologists could assist with the Ebola crisis by working alongside religious organizations to minimize the transmission of Ebola.

            It is concerning that they are not asking for more anthropologists to help during the crisis when many anthropologists are offering their help. I was unaware of the significant role that anthropologists could have during a crisis like Ebola. I believe that they should be present as they are familiar with the cultural barriers. Anthropologists would be able to help local populations grasp a better understanding of the disease and the ways that it is transmitted, and be able to diminish some of the existing stereotypes. It is evident that the biomedical approach is not stopping the spread of Ebola. Thus a new innovative approach that involves the assistance of anthropologists is needed. This approach would examine the disease from a sociocultural perspective allowing for a meaningful understanding of how the disease affects individual’s beliefs and their everyday activities. It would also assist in determining how the disease is transmitted through their actions.

Discussion Questions

1) If anthropologists would be beneficial on the scene during the Ebola response, why are more not sent to assist?

2) Do you think that religious institutions are as involved with the Ebola crisis as they are with the HIV/AIDS response?

Week two — The Political Economy of Disease in Africa: Aids to Ebola.

Moyosore Arewa

The readings this week all seem to propagate some of the shunned methods or approaches of disease control in Sub-Saharan Africa. The first article, The politics and anti-politics of social movements: religion and HIV/AIDS in Africa, as its title may suggest, discusses some of the relationships in Sub-Saharan Africa between religion and HIV. It conveys the fact that religion has a bigger role to play the onset of an epidemic than many may think — it has the ability to either stifle efforts at controlling the disease or mobilize people in seeking solutions. Hence, this article seeks to help us understand the dynamics of the intricate relationship between religion and HIV. The next two articles, unlike the first, focus on the recent Ebola outbreak; they both try to convince the reader of the importance of anthropologists, or of anthropological work, in the efforts to contain the disease.

The bridge between the three articles is that they both detract from the “traditional”and popular biomedical approaches to disease control. In suggesting that there may be more to HIV/AIDS control than the biomedical method, the first article inadvertently proclaims the same arguments as the other two articles, albeit in a more concrete, academic manner.

Important to note from all the readings is what should seem apparent, but often isn’t: even if many African settlings were not, as some academics refer it, “neo-patrimonial” and communitarian, it should still be quite conceivable to expect that the onset of diseases such as HIV and Ebola will affect more than just the physical health of people in the society. It goes beyond that into the social and cultural fabric of their lives. The example given in the second reading about the difficulty of getting locals to alter their traditional burial practices in favour of a foreign, but safer, one is a perfect illustration of this point. Another perfect illustration is how neo-pentecostal churches in Africa play an important role in how HIV is conceptualized by the community. Some of these churches stress, as the first article mentions, the importance of spirituality and moralism, which, as one would expect, makes discussions about HIV, a disease transmitted mainly through sexual intercourse, a little bit awkward.

Furthermore, although it is difficult to disagree with the “spirit” of the last two articles, it is equally difficult to consume them without reservations. That is, if at all one is to accept that there is a need for Anthropologists on the field, must these anthropologists come from America or other western countries? Is there a shortage of African anthropologists (or Africans who are capable of doing the work anthropologists claim they can do) in these ebola-stricken areas? Moreover, the articles both present their arguments in a way that suggests that none of the organizations involved in containing ebola have medical anthropologists on their staff. Perhaps this is not true (see, http://www.who.int/csr/don/2014_05_12_ebola/en/).

Some questions:

  • Would anthropologists interfere with efforts already being made?
  • Is it logical to assume that the costs — financial and otherwise — to send a large team of anthropologists would be too great to bare?

Week 2: The Political Economy of disease in Africa

The readings this week provide insight into the efforts to combat the outbreak and spread of disease in Africa, in particular HIV/AIDS and the Ebola virus. The articles by Abramowitz and Saez discuss the role of anthropology in understanding the spread of disease as well as the local perception of those infected and the reaction to disease control methods. They discuss how primary disease control methods are insufficient as they focus solely on technical aspects in terms of treatment and containment. These methods are demonstrated to be inadequate as they cannot address the fear that disease can cause nor can they engage with cultural practices, lack of education and superstition. For example, as Saez discusses, it is important for family people to have physical contact with their deceased loved one as a form of respect. The failure to understand and consider cultural practices is a clear obstruction to containment and treatment measures, which is how blank and blank make their case for the involvement of Anthropologists in the treatment of widespread disease.

The issues discussed by blank and blank can be observed in the Ebola war: Nurses of Gulu. The case of Ebola in Uganda was difficult to contain and treat as they were inadequate resources to address the issue. To make the situation more difficult was the hostility projected towards nurses working Ebola patients as fear of infection prompted residents of Gulu to shun the nurses. This presents challenges to containment that go beyond sufficient resources to treat disease as those at risk of infection are unwilling to cooperate with health officials. This trend can be demonstrated in the more recent outbreak of the Ebola Virus in Liberia. In August of 2014 an emergency health clinic in the slum of Westpoint was overrun and looted by a mob that was upset about the proximity of the clinic to the village. Health aid workers and police were chased off and Ebola patients sent home. The attitude towards foreign aid workers obstructs the treatment efforts and risks further exposure of the virus to greater numbers of individuals.

Burchardt et al. also discuss the role of religious organizations in the containment and treatment of disease. The role of Christian and Muslim organisation from individual organisations to broader based NGO’s are identified as potential actors for reducing the spread for disease. Religious movements such as the Neo-Pentecostal have had a positive impact upon the understating of the transmission of AIDS. In examining religious and spiritual attitudes towards disease hat affect behavior and transmission, perhaps the authors focus too exclusively upon Christianity and Islam. There are many groups and communities that adhere to more traditional forms of spirituality that must be considered as a venue for either the containment or spread of disease. As Abramowitz and Saez discuss, perhaps anthropologists could be employed to understand the relationship between traditional spirituality and the spread of disease? As Burchardt et al. mention witchcraft was once an important means of understanding and attempted treatment of disease.

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

Jessica Slade- 110232060

For the purposes of this week’s blog post, we engaged in material that specifically focused on the political economy of disease in Africa. We views the film “Ebola war the nurses of Gulu” by Alethia Productions and read the three articles “The politics and anti-politics of social movements: religion and HIV/AIDS in Africa,” by Marian Burchardt & Amy Patterson, and Notes from Case Zero: Anthropology in the time of Ebola,” by Almudena Sáez, Ann Keyy & Hannah Brown, and lastly “Ten things that Anthropologists can do to fight the West African Ebola epidemic,” by Sharon Abramowitz.

Ebola war the nurses of Gulu” by Alethia Productions can be found at: http://vimeo.com/39885512

The work “The politics and anti-politics of social movements: religion and HIV/AIDS in Africa,” by Marian Burchardt & Amy Patterson works to deconstruct the place of Ebola in Africa and how the international community- namely religious organizations have responded to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. By using a broad scope to assess the situation, we learn how health issues are framed in the context of foreign aid and the process of donating. In this work we are able to see the benefits of short-term gain and the potential for long-term pain, where western aid is the primary source of monetary compensation for programs lacking funding. What do you think about international investment in times of chaos? Is the Band-Aid type solution worth it, or is there another way to combat crisis?

The second article this week is entitled, Notes from Case Zero: Anthropology in the time of Ebola,” by Almudena Sáez, Ann Keyy & Hannah Brown. In this work we learn about the place of anthropologist individually as well as the community of anthropology and the role that they can play in working to decrease the spread of Ebola. In using methods of anthropological analysis, workers argue that their knowledge is improperly being used in combat of the disease. In time of crisis often sectors of development aid can be overlooked if deemed not immediately useful. In this case, we can see how one may value the place of a western trained doctor or contamination prevention specialist first. This is not to say that there is not a place for anthropologists in the midst of all of this- because I believe that there is. I am merely just examining the repose from the local community and the value that is place on people based on their professions. After reading this work do you believe that the anthologists could have been better utilize? What is the solution to aid workers who are unable to find their place in the international community, is their place necessary or are some situations better without them?

Lastly, the work “Ten things that Anthropologists can do to fight the West African Ebola epidemic,” by Sharon Abramowitz, has proved to be an interesting read that bares witness to the direct actions that can be carried out by global and local anthropological figures. In a change from many other forms of modern literature, this work seems to provide positivity in terms of Western involvement in crisis and seeks to examine what workers can do to aid in the Ebola epidemic. By using their trained skills- such as ethnographic research, we learn that anthropologists can play an important role as actors in crisis. In doing this, the gap between the global and local communities will inherently be made smaller, resulting in the development of more transparent and localized structures of aid. Prior to reading this work did you ever consider the place of anthropologists as the linking factor between global and local organizations?