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Decolonizing Ebola Rhetorics Following the 2013–2016 West African Ebola Outbreak

Marouf Hasian, Jr.

Decolonizing Ebola Rhetorics Following the 2013-2016 West African Ebola Outbreak defends the position that, despite the supposed “lessons” that have been learned about the spread of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) after the 2013–2016 West African Ebola outbreak, there remains a need to “decolonize” the rhetorics of Ebola prevention and containment. The author asserts that the failure of governments, aid organizations, and global media to confront the structural and material legacies of colonialism in West Africa will prevent global communities from adequately dealing with sporadic Ebola outbreaks. Central to the book’s argument is that far too many communities in the “global North” are unwilling to spend the hundreds of billions of dollars that are needed for the prevention of endemic and epidemic diseases in the “global South.” Instead of coping with the impoverished legacies of colonialism, organizations like the World Health Organization support the use of small groups of “Ebola hunters” who swoop down during crises and put out EVD outbreaks using emergency health techniques. The author demonstrates how Western-oriented ways of dealing with EVD have made it difficult to convince West African populations—wary of emergency interventions after a long history of colonial medical experimentation in Africa—that those in the West truly care about the prevention of the next Ebola outbreak. Decolonizing Ebola Rhetorics ultimately argues that as long as global journalists and elite public health officials continue to blame bats, bushmeat, or indigenous burial practices for the spread of Ebola, the necessary decolonization of Ebola rhetorics will be forestalled. The author concludes the book by offering critiques of the real lessons that are learned by those who try to securitize or military Ebola containment efforts.

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Chapter 3 Post-World War II Decolonization and the Discursive Framing of Earlier Ebola Outbreaks, 1945–2012

Post-World War II Decolonization and the Discursive Framing of Earlier Ebola Outbreaks, 1945–2012



In this particular chapter I take up the question of how the advent of decolonization and the rise of public health organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) impacted the evolution of post-World War II rhetorics. I will argue that while some basic generic features of the “great doctor” tropical disease “rescue” narratives of the 19th century were retained in the tales that would be told about containment of “emerging” diseases between 1946 and 2012, changing material conditions and altered cultural landscapes added new layers of contested meanings that impacted the naming of the Ebola virus in 1976.

During and after the decolonization years those who were influenced by what the French called “third worldism” interrogated the “old civilizing mission” of empires. Buoyed by the prospect that the passage of the Geneva Conventions on warfighting and genocide might reflect changing societal attitudes, more than a few wrote about such topics as the rise of anticolonial movements, the importance of indigenous rights, the ills of racial segregation, and the need for global “development.”

Bertrand Taithe and Katherine Davis explained how social agents during these transitional periods tried to cope with the contradictions and tensions that came when those who wanted to liberate the former colonized also tried to honor the pioneers of tropical medicine. While many former colonized communities wanted to build their own national infrastructures and move away from some of the symbolism of imperialism, they also longed for the “Pasteurian heroic...

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