SAMUEL G. DUNN LECTURESHIP IN THE MEDICAL HUMANITIES
We Who Do Not Die:
Outbreak Narratives Limits and the Political Category of the Survivor
Adia Benton, PhD
Department of Anthropology
Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences
Thursday, December 9, 2021
11:00am - 12:00pm
Amidst rising Covid-19 cases and deaths in North America, poet Dionne Brand questioned the political tendency “to manage the pandemic as narrative, as calculus, but not yet as reckoning.” Her question is a counterpoint to narrative approaches like Rosenberg’s and echoes concerns foregrounded in Wald’s approach, both of which examine meaning, structure and effect of epidemics on society. Drawing on the case of Ebola survivorship in Sierra Leone, I think through Brand’s assertion, and their implications for certain kinds of narrative approaches: what do narrative and calculative perspectives presume, prefigure and prioritize -- particularly as they relate to temporal and experiential dimensions of disease events and public health crises? I argue that moving beyond the dramaturgical and narrative explanations (and towards reckoning) requires foregrounding relations of power, intersubjectivity, and temporalities that exceed conventional epidemic plot.
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