This article examines how populations affected by the Ebola epidemic in Liberia
reacted to the implementation of mandatory, state-imposed quarantine as a way of curtailing
transmission. The ethnography, based on in-depth fieldwork in both urban and rural
areas, shows how mandatory quarantine caused severe social consequences for both people’s
perceptions of epidemic control and their health-seeking behaviours. The authoritarian imposition
of this public-health measure soon became a driver of social fear that contributed to
the divide between institutions and population, jeopardising the control of transmission. Its
implementation overshadowed more acceptable local quarantine measures that communities
were organising to protect themselves from transmission. The analysis argues that quarantine
in Liberia was counterproductive and suggests alternatives to epidemic control rooted in social
acceptance and local practices.
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