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Antiblackness and global health: placing the 2014-15 Ebola response in Sierra Leone in the colonial wake

Hirsch, Lioba Assaba; (2020) Antiblackness and global health: placing the 2014-15 Ebola response in Sierra Leone in the colonial wake. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis draws on Black Studies to explore how antiblackness is entangled in the field of global health. Drawing on ‘the wake’, a theorisation of Black life in the aftermath of enslavement and colonialism articulated by Christina Sharpe, it argues that the British-led, international response to the Sierra Leonean Ebola epidemic (2014-16) worked through colonial infrastructures and colonial imaginations of Sierra Leone as a de-historicised landscape, unaffected by transatlantic antiblack violence. It enhances existing analyses of the response by showing that historical entanglements of care and antiblackness signal ‘the wake’ as an epistemic and geographical reality. In Sierra Leone this reality is largely normalised and was, despite its ubiquity, given little consideration in the international Ebola response. The thesis takes the form of a multi-sited, non-linear, geographical study of the international response. It shows that ‘the wake’ underlies the international Ebola response; that it can be traced in Freetown’s cityscape, in the mobilities connecting Sierra Leone and the UK, in British archives and in colonial and contemporary expert accounts. Methodologically the research draws on interviews with international health responders and members of the Sierra Leonean diaspora involved in the Ebola response, fieldwork in Sierra Leone and London, and archival research on British colonial disease control. The empirical chapters examine the response in relation to ‘the wake’ in terms of the following themes: material and atmospheric traces of colonialism and enslavement in and around Freetown; disease control-related aeromobilities; colonial and postcolonial expertise; and care and care practices. The thesis demonstrates the value of placing contemporary global health in ‘the wake’ in order to rethink where and how we study the colonial present. In conclusion, it shows how ideas from Black studies should inform further research on global health in terms of unpacking postcolonial silences, centering Black perspectives and highlighting the endurance of colonial infrastructures.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Antiblackness and global health: placing the 2014-15 Ebola response in Sierra Leone in the colonial wake
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10089879
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