We Who Do Not Die: Outbreak Narrative's Limits and the Political Category of Survivor
Monday, April 12, 2021
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Meeting ID: 913 0584 3257
Amidst rising Covid-19 cases and deaths in North America, poet Dionne Brand questioned the political tendency "to manage the pandemic as narrative, as calculus, but not yet as reckoning." Her question is a counterpoint to narrative approaches like Rosenberg's and Wald's, which examine meaning, structure and effect of epidemics on society. Drawing on the case of Ebola survivorship in Sierra Leone, I think through Brand's assertion: what do narrative and calculative perspectives presume, prefigure and prioritize -- particularly as they relate to temporal and experiential dimensions of disease events and public health crises? I argue that moving beyond the dramaturgical and narrative explanations (and towards reckoning) requires foregrounding relations of power, intersubjectivity, and temporalities that exceed conventional epidemic plot.
Adia Benton is an associate professor of Anthropology and African Studies at Northwestern University, where she is affiliated with the Science in Human Culture Program. She is the author of the award-winning book, HIV Exceptionalism: Development through Disease in Sierra Leone, and is currently writing a book about the West African Ebola outbreak.