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Emerging Disease: Ebola, Culture, and Politics in Africa

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In this case study, readers will embark on an improbable journey through the heart of Africa to discover how indigenous people cope with the rapid-killing Ebola virus. The Hewletts are the first anthropologists ever invited by the World Health Organization to join a medical intervention team and assist in efforts to control an Ebola outbreak. Their account addresses politi In this case study, readers will embark on an improbable journey through the heart of Africa to discover how indigenous people cope with the rapid-killing Ebola virus. The Hewletts are the first anthropologists ever invited by the World Health Organization to join a medical intervention team and assist in efforts to control an Ebola outbreak. Their account addresses political, structural, psychological, and cultural factors, along with conventional intervention protocols as problematic to achieving medical objectives. They find obvious historical and cultural answers to otherwise-puzzling questions about why village people often flee, refuse to cooperate, and sometimes physically attack members of intervention teams. Perhaps surprisingly, readers will discover how some cultural practices of local people are helpful and should be incorporated into control procedures. The authors shed new light on a continuing debate about the motivation for human behavior by showing how local responses to epidemics are rooted both in culture and in human nature. Well-supported recommendations emerge from a comparative analysis of Central African cases and pandemics worldwide to suggest how the United States and other countries might use anthropologists and the insights of anthropologists to mount more effective public health campaigns, with particular attention to avian flu and bioterrorism.


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In this case study, readers will embark on an improbable journey through the heart of Africa to discover how indigenous people cope with the rapid-killing Ebola virus. The Hewletts are the first anthropologists ever invited by the World Health Organization to join a medical intervention team and assist in efforts to control an Ebola outbreak. Their account addresses politi In this case study, readers will embark on an improbable journey through the heart of Africa to discover how indigenous people cope with the rapid-killing Ebola virus. The Hewletts are the first anthropologists ever invited by the World Health Organization to join a medical intervention team and assist in efforts to control an Ebola outbreak. Their account addresses political, structural, psychological, and cultural factors, along with conventional intervention protocols as problematic to achieving medical objectives. They find obvious historical and cultural answers to otherwise-puzzling questions about why village people often flee, refuse to cooperate, and sometimes physically attack members of intervention teams. Perhaps surprisingly, readers will discover how some cultural practices of local people are helpful and should be incorporated into control procedures. The authors shed new light on a continuing debate about the motivation for human behavior by showing how local responses to epidemics are rooted both in culture and in human nature. Well-supported recommendations emerge from a comparative analysis of Central African cases and pandemics worldwide to suggest how the United States and other countries might use anthropologists and the insights of anthropologists to mount more effective public health campaigns, with particular attention to avian flu and bioterrorism.

30 review for Emerging Disease: Ebola, Culture, and Politics in Africa

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    Not bad for a class book. Got slightly repetitive and uninteresting as it went on. Wouldn't have read it if I wasn't assigned to, but I did learn some things from it. Not bad for a class book. Got slightly repetitive and uninteresting as it went on. Wouldn't have read it if I wasn't assigned to, but I did learn some things from it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    K

    Dr. Hewlett teaches at Washington State University where I studied anthropology. This book discusses how the Ebola outbreak was handled before and after the involvement of medical anthropologists with the CDC and how Dr. Barry Hewlett became the first medical anthropologist to have been called to work alongside CDC in a high profile situation, and have since opened the door for more anthropologists to become involved. It's admirable work especially in portraying the utility of anthropologists and Dr. Hewlett teaches at Washington State University where I studied anthropology. This book discusses how the Ebola outbreak was handled before and after the involvement of medical anthropologists with the CDC and how Dr. Barry Hewlett became the first medical anthropologist to have been called to work alongside CDC in a high profile situation, and have since opened the door for more anthropologists to become involved. It's admirable work especially in portraying the utility of anthropologists and how essential their roles could be in providing a more conducive environment for researchers and local people to mutually benefit from one another without treating them as just another "test subject".

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Very boring like informative but in like a mind numbing way

  4. 5 out of 5

    Riley Griffin

    A great recount of the beginning trials and hardships of Ebola--it brings forth a new perspective (anthropologically) that should be considered when thinking of widespread medical crises.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lacey

    Was reading this for my anthropology class, Plagues and Peoples. Being scientific academic work, it was filled with a great deal of repetition which led to a short attention span on my end, but with that said it was pretty interesting. In addition to providing more detailed, insider information on Ebola (as opposed to the usual overly-dramatic media hype) this book spoke to what medical anthropologists can offer in not only the fight against Ebola but other epidemics and bioterrorism situations. Was reading this for my anthropology class, Plagues and Peoples. Being scientific academic work, it was filled with a great deal of repetition which led to a short attention span on my end, but with that said it was pretty interesting. In addition to providing more detailed, insider information on Ebola (as opposed to the usual overly-dramatic media hype) this book spoke to what medical anthropologists can offer in not only the fight against Ebola but other epidemics and bioterrorism situations. In particular, medical anthropologists negotiate between the international medical teams and the people to ensure that the cultural differences and, in Ebola's case, postcolonial distrust does not get in the way of caring for people to the best of the doctors' ability. The people in the African countries affected by Ebola have their own means--at least some of it effective--of dealing with epidemics, but are not often being heard by the European medical teams who assume that they either don't have a way of dealing with epidemic, or that whatever means they have are "primitive" and ineffective. Further, medical anthropologists help to figure out where the index case (the first case in an outbreak) as well as the contact cases are, and to figure out whether they need to be isolated for the protection of the people. After reading this book, I have a new perspective on the African peoples studied here, as I realize how very biased our media can be, and often is, towards them and their beliefs. They deserve to not be treated like primitive people who are going to spread an epidemic in our country, and I've realized how common it is for us as Americans to think only of the danger to ourselves when we see news about the epidemic (which, by the way, is highly unlikely, especially because it has been proven that Ebola can be fairly treatable with good, clean, medical care like we have here in the US. Unfortunately, that is not the case in West Africa, which contributes heavily to the problems there.) Despite the relative readability, I think I'd only recommend this to someone with a very sincere interest in Ebola, though I would bet that this book is much better for factual information than most which might be more readable.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Stevenson

    If you want to understand why Ebola seems to be out of control in West Africa, Hewlett's book will give you some insights. True the examples are not from today's sites but how the disease spreads, how culture contributes to this and how the inability of government's to provide for health needs are all explained here. More over, the author shows how anthropological understanding can make dealing with these issues can be improved thereby contributing to more effective interventions. If you want to understand why Ebola seems to be out of control in West Africa, Hewlett's book will give you some insights. True the examples are not from today's sites but how the disease spreads, how culture contributes to this and how the inability of government's to provide for health needs are all explained here. More over, the author shows how anthropological understanding can make dealing with these issues can be improved thereby contributing to more effective interventions.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Saira

    Not a bad book for the undergrad level and teaching the applied perspective in medical anthropology, but it gets a bit redundant towards the end.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joel Michael Samaduroff

    Awesome Great info. This provides one of the only authentic medical anthropology intervention methods that are formally recognized and incorporated into the WHO outbreak procedure!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Definitely a book to read in the current day and age~

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jarrod S

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ag

  12. 5 out of 5

    Susie

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karen Luellen

  14. 4 out of 5

    rarehero

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

  16. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

  17. 5 out of 5

    Clarinda

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Heiberger

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  21. 4 out of 5

    ImpulsiveToaster

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cory

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Duke

  24. 5 out of 5

    Haley

  25. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa Louise Farquhar

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bren

  28. 5 out of 5

    Whompyjawed

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rosalyn Theresa

  30. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

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