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‘Atomic Bombs’ in Monrovia, Liberia

The Identity and Stigmatisation of Ebola Survivors

Emilie Venables

Survivors of the Ebola virus have been widely profiled as the success stories of the outbreak, yet they still face challenges relating to their identity and reintegration. A survivor’s body takes on new meanings aft er experiencing Ebola, and the label ‘survivor’ is as problematic as it is celebratory. Using data conducted during fieldwork in Monrovia, Liberia, this article discusses the complex identities of Ebola survivors. In Monrovia, most of the stigma and discrimination relating to survivors was directed towards men, who were considered ‘atomic bombs’ because of concerns that they could transmit Ebola through sexual intercourse. Health promotion messages around sexual transmission were often misunderstood, and communities requested the quarantine of men to reduce what they felt was a threat to the wider community. Understanding the meanings and sources of such stigmatisation is necessary to be able to work with and support survivors through psychosocial care and health promotion activities.

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Engaging Anthropology in an Ebola Outbreak

Case Studies from West Africa

Emilie Venables and Umberto Pellecchia

The articles in this special issue demonstrate, through ethnographic fieldwork and observations, how anthropologists and the methodological tools of their discipline became a means of understanding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa during 2014 and 2015. The examples, from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, show how anthropologists were involved in the Ebola outbreak at different points during the crisis and the contributions their work made. Discussing issues including health promotion, gender, quarantine and Ebola survivors, the authors show the diverse roles played by anthropologists and the different ways in which they made use of the tools of their discipline. The case studies draw upon the ethical, methodological and logistical challenges of conducting fieldwork during a crisis such as this one and offer reflections upon the role of anthropology in this context.