Ebola Response Anthropology Platform

Welcome to the Ebola Response Anthropology Platform. Co-ordinated by anthropologists at LSHTM, IDS and the Universities of Sussex and Exeter, this aims to contribute to a co-ordinated, adaptive and iterative response to the Ebola outbreak. By drawing upon existing anthropological expertise, and undertaking targeted fieldwork, the aim is to enhance current efforts to contain the epidemic by providing clear, practical, real-time advice about how to engage with crucial socio-cultural and political dimensions of the outbreak and build locally-appropriate interventions. The specific objectives of the Platform are:

  1. To identify, connect up and support in-country anthropological and other social science capacity working in African countries affected by Ebola and to provide a basis for interaction with clinical, scientific and outbreak control teams.
  2. To help key stakeholders, practitioners and researchers to access information, findings and background resources about the socio-cultural, historical, economic and political dimensions of Ebola.
  3. To support relief teams and in-country clinical and social scientific capacity through training and guidelines oriented towards strengthening community-based activities
  4. To provide rapid responses by e-mail, conference calls and web-based dialogues to operational questions raised by those working for NGOs, government and international agencies about how to contain the epidemic effectively.
  5. To cultivate appropriate anthropological resources and networks positioned to mobilise  a rapid, substantive, socially-informed response to  future Ebola outbreaks in vulnerable places –  – such as  Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Uganda, South Sudan, DRC
  6. To inform global health policy by drawing lessons from the Ebola response and advancing a comparative perspective on  Ebola and other emerging infections, around key themes  such as: the interface between justice, security and emerging infections; ethics, pharmaceutical trials and humanitarianism.

The Platform is just getting up and running. This is a temporary resource portal to enable rapid access to key resources, while the structure and interactive mechanisms of the site are under development.  To include your documents in this platform please email: ebola@ids.ac.uk

Anthropological Briefings concerning current epidemic

Fairhead, J (2014) The significance of death, funerals and the after-life in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia: Anthropological insights into infection and social resistance Somatosphere, Ebola Fieldnotes (ongoing; began 2014) Cultural Anthropology, Ebola in Perspective (7/10/2014)

Background Literature: Anthropology of Funerals and medical thought and practices

MacCormack, C (1986) Dying as Transformation to Ancestorhood: The Sherbro Coast of Sierra Leone

Paulme, D (1955) Les Gens du Riz (The Rice People)

Opala, J & Boillot, F (1996) Leprosy among the Limba: illness and healing in the context of world view

Jermain, J (1947) L’Au-Delà chez les Guerzé

Hopkins et al (1971) Two funderal-associated smallpox outbreaks in Sierra Leone

Leach et al (2008) New therapeutic landscapes in Africa: parental categories and practices in seeking infant health in the Republic of Guinea

Longer-term drivers, ecology and development

Ebola and beyond: Equality, sustainability, security – interlaced challenges in a global development era – Sussex Development Lecture and background document by Melissa Leach

Zoonoses – From Panic to Planning. IDS Rapid Response briefing.

Ebola in Guinea – people, patterns and puzzles. Melissa Leach blogs at Lancet Global Health.

Misreading the Africa Landscape: Society and Ecology in a Forest-Savanna Mosaic. Book authored by James Fairhead and Melissa Leach (1996)

Perspectives from comparative and earlier Ebola outbreaks

Ebola, Culture and Politics: The anthropology of an emerging disease. 2008 Book by Barry Hewlett and Bonnie Hewlett

Haemorrhagic Fevers in Africa: Narratives, Politics and Pathways of Disease and Response. STEPS Centre Working Paper by Melissa Leach.

Time to put Ebola in Context. Interview with Melissa Leach in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

Community engagement

Ebola: failures, flashpoints and focus. Blog by Anne Wilkinson on the STEPS Centre blog.

Ebola: The Challenges. Event summary of roundtable held as part of  African Studies Association Conference 2014  


Dispelling the Myths of Ebola, 22nd July 2014, IDS website

Difficult Questions for Development, Ian Scoones, Huffington Post