Bodies in flux: movement and disease control along colonial and anti-colonial currents

Authors: Lioba Hirsch*, University College London
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Historical Geography
Keywords: disease, mobility, coloniality, practices
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Iris, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


I’d like to suggest, based on Doreen Massey’s (2004) redevelopment of Arturo Escobar’s (2001) statement that “culture is carried into places by bodies”, that colonialism too can be carried into places by bodies through, among other things, beliefs and practices. This contention complicates the presumed linearity of a colonial/post-colonial timeline. Using the example of the 2014-16 Ebola Virus Disease epidemic, I would like to explore how the mobilities of two groups - international responders and Sierra Leonean diaspora groups in the UK – were realised with, against or in disregard to the coloniality of disease-related movements to, from and within Sierra Leone. The management of the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic in Sierra Leone relied to a large extent on colonial and imperial infrastructures and mobilities of infectious disease control. Indeed, Sierra Leone’s history and built environment have been shaped by its violent integration into the transatlantic world and the British empire. This is equally true with regards to the management of health and disease in the country once known as “the white man’s grave” (Frenkel and Western, 1988). Throughout the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic, specific places, practices, bodies and flows were re-invested with colonial purpose and meaning, suggesting that the colonial past is never past. This paper is based on in-depth, semi-structured interviews and archival research I conducted as part of my PhD.

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