Within the field of public health the most serious response to pathology is quarantine. Quarantines segregate populations according to a utilitarian logic of preserving the social body while isolating dangerous bodies within it. This is based on an idea that occurs at the intersection of medicine, politics, and power. The question of who gets quarantined, by whom, and under what circumstances is rendered a simple tautology: the sick are quarantined by public health professionals because they are sick. Experiences of the 2013-2016 ebola outbreak in the Republic of Guinea show that quarantines are sites of competing experiences and claims to authority (Fairhead, 2016). How this is operationalized in global discourses surrounding public health is a question with special resonance now as the world grapples with Covid-19.
While focusing on African experiences, this panel invites contributions that consider the differential narratives of responsibility that surround infectious diseases. Why are some sicknesses rooted in “culture” while others are considered a cost of doing business in the landscape of capitalist market relations? What makes diseases and geographies open for intervention from supra-statal bodies, while others are presumed capable of handling their own affairs? Who is empowered to make public health decisions on behalf of populations at scales from local to global, and through what mechanisms? This panel will interrogate the conceptual underpinnings that generate the foregoing questions.
Please e-mail George A. Spisak at gas33[at]cornell.edu with your proposal.