The significance of death, funerals and the after-life in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia: Anthropological insights into infection and social resistance

The aim of this briefing paper is to consider the various ways in which widely reported fear and resistance to the Ebola response can be understood, and what each way of understanding offers to those battling with the current epidemic. As far as this paper is concerned, there is no single ‘right way’ to comprehend resistance to educators, medics and burial teams, as this is a very complex social phenomenon. The aim instead is to outline the variety of ways in which resistance can be (has been) conceived and what each might suggest for better communication and response. The paper couches these different modes of understanding within a wide repertoire of perspectives that social theorists take to understanding social phenomena, as this provides an analytical framework that is as encompassing as possible.

As will become clear, some of the ways this can be understood are more significant than others to the immediate interests of medical services and the policy levers. Yet all are significant for understanding the perspectives of those experiencing Ebola and to enable respectful and productive interactions.

This is a draft briefing paper – 09 October 2014

Fairhead, J / 2014 / Draft

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