In a recent interesting contribution to this platform, Paul Richards rightly questioned the mainstream perception that funerals per se are source of contamination in countries affected by ebola. The author argues that funerals are phenomena which are extremely interrelated to other different aspects of social life, like the overall care of sickness, the concept of authority, and the logic of parenthood. Yet, his brief paper has another value: by stressing the complexity of this social phenomenon, it tunes down the journalistic emphasis that in past months has focused the global attention oo much on traditional funerals performed in the countries hit by the deadly virus. Together with the “bush meat”, the traditional funerals have become one of the main topics of the media coverage related to ebola. Such clamour has produced the effect of framing the discourse about this disease within culturalist categories – such as food or death related practices – minimizing the socio-economic and political aspects of the epidemic. The consequences of such views are twofold: firstly, the Western world has once again perceived the African world as deeply steeped in out-of-time traditions. Secondly, the global intervention to the epidemic – for example, in awareness messages – has focused its energies on a “changing behaviour” approach that has dangerously put pressure on the populations already coerced by both the epidemic and the often weak response of their governments.
Umberto Pellecchia / 2015 / Ebola Response Anthropology Platform