In August of this year, when the Ebola outbreak escalated in Liberia and a state of emergency had been declared for the country, Fatu Kekula, a young Liberian nursing student, improvised personal protective equipment (PPE) to care for her father, mother, sister, and cousin. After three of the relatives survived, her method was featured prominently in the international news media as the “trash bag method” (CNN, 2014). The reports were meant to ignite a spark of hope in the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. International organizations, like UNICEF, even started to promote this ‘better-than-nothing’ method. In most other Ebola reports, by contrast, health workers in white or yellow PPEs, collecting dead bodies or admitting sick patients to isolation units, have come to symbolize the grim and desperate situation in the region. What strikes us most in the story of Kekula’s improvised PPE is how notions of security and safety are reinscribed into gloves, trash bags, and rubber boots to enable a form of care in the context of a broken health system. When we recall that during the first months of the epidemic many people were caring for their sick relatives without any protection measures, then Kekula’s trash bag method reveals quite dramatically how care itself has become a source of existential insecurity. Continue reading Caring as existential insecurity: quarantine, care, and human insecurity in the Ebola crisis
On 25 September 1984, Daniel Defert wrote a letter to his friends proposing that they create a non-profit organization to address an emerging disease: AIDS. “In face of a medical crisis and a moral crisis, which is also an identity crisis, I propose that we create a space for reflection, solidarity and transformation,” he wrote. A few weeks later, the association AIDES (which means “help” in French) was founded. Its objective was to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic through community outreach, awareness campaigns and political lobbying. It remains the largest HIV/AIDS-related organization in France. Continue reading Une vie politique, Daniel Defert
A French version of this piece was originally published in Libération on 18 September 2014.
“It is useless to laboriously interpret disaster movies in terms of their relation to an ‘objective’ social crisis or even to an ‘objective’ phantasm of disaster,” wrote Jean Baudrillard in 1981. “It is in another sense that (…) it is the social itself that, in contemporary discourse, is organised along the lines of a disaster-movie script.” In its Saturday, 13 September edition, the French daily Libération devoted several columns of its paper to the analysis of apocalyptic films, which reflect our anxiety in the face of pandemics. The Ebola virus epidemic which is raging in several western African countries calls for a more radical critique.
By Janina Kehr
A few months ago, the independent Spanish online newspaper El Diario published a cartoon entitled “Ebola in Madrid”. It showed a health worker, camouflaged in a green protection suit, wearing a white head shield and goggles, leaning over a patient almost completely hidden under the sheets of the hospital bed. The huge hospital room is deserted and empty, virtually looted. It resembles an evacuated department store, but depicts a worn down, abandoned hospital floor. The health worker addresses the patient, saying: “Now the most important thing is that you get calm and relax. We should not disregard the possibility that the virus dies from boredom”. Continue reading Against Sick States: Ebola Protests in Austerity Spain – Somatosphere