The Enactement of 'state' and 'statelessness' in outbreak responses

In this seminar drawing from a combined epidemiological and ethnographic study, Dr Freya Jephcott (Queen's College Cambridge), will unpack the consequences of involving different types of actors, both national and international, in the response to a mysterious outbreak in Ghana (2012). Come and join us for an interesting discussion!

In 2012 an outbreak of a cryptic neurological illness was detected in the Brong-Ahafo Region (BAR) of Ghana. Samples from the affected children were taken to a specialist laboratory in Accra, where the results from the testing triggered a formal investigation and, eventually, a multinational response. What makes this outbreak response particularly interesting is that, whilst it had all the trappings of a formal national system, it actually took place almost entirely outside of official protocols and structures.  

Dr Freya Jephcott, Queen's College Cambridge (UK)

The case study of the BAR outbreak, developed through a four-year combined epidemiological and ethnographic study, reveals an often-missed form of state-mediated disease control, one comprised of state actors working, largely independently, to enact a shared vision of public service provision. This alternative outbreak response system provides an important counterpoint amongst a wealth of literature describing the In this of state services in Africa and the prominent role of foreign actors as administrators of public health. It is still necessary, however, to locate this system within the larger, multinational landscape of public health in Ghana.

To see their joint vision of a state-mediated response realized, the state actors in the BAR outbreak had to broker resources from foreign public health professionals. In doing so, they indulged, and even enabled, some of the ‘stateless’ visions of disease control in Africa contained within the humanitarian, biosecurity and religious mandates of their Western collaborators. As will become apparent through the story of the BAR outbreak, unchecked and unchallenged, this joint enactment of state and statelessness not only has the potential to collapse ad-hoc initiatives such as the response to the BAR outbreak, but also to erode what official state infrastructure still exists.


On the seminar series "Global Health Unpacked"

“Global Health Unpacked” is a seminar series that aims to bring together the global health community on a regular basis to critically discuss key debates in Global Health in informal and interactive seminars. Guest speakers (both from the University of Oslo and from other universities) will bring an original perspective to the topic and engage in a conversation with the audience.

With this forum, we also hope to facilitate exchanges and collaborations between global health researchers and students present in Oslo and foster interdisciplinary research. “Global Health Unpacked” is jointly organized by the research group Power and Politics of Global Health, Centre for Development and the Environment and the UiO Centre for Global Health.

Tags: epidemic, development, Global Health, outbreak
Published Apr. 27, 2018 9:07 AM - Last modified Dec. 3, 2018 11:50 AM