Outliving death: Ebola, zombies, and the politics of saving lives

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Treatment units were created all across the country with a mission to save lives when the Ebola outbreak hit Guinea in 2014. These units were exceptional sites of biomedical and biosecurity technology. Nevertheless, the concrete procedures to contain the virus reduced the people quarantined to dangerous bodies. The emergency therefore created zombies, haunting figures trapped between life and death. The figure of the zombie shed light on the failure of the humanitarian engagement: when humanitarianism was driven by an ethical imperative of saving lives at any cost, its concrete procedures failed to preserve political and social existence. Zombies also related to the legacy of the slave trade. Connecting the zombie with the postcolonial context of Guinea, I will argue that humanitarian teams were dealing with already devalued lives. Zombies is then another word for pariah citizens of a global world. But people never live in utter subjection. The zombie is thus not only a metaphor for the commodification of life. It also invokes a slave rebellion. Enduring the politics of saving lives, zombies nevertheless resisted the confinement: to the quarantine but also to our analytical gaze. Zombies are thus the ones who outlive not only death in life but also conceptual death.
TidsskriftAmerican Anthropologist
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)738-751
Antal sider14
StatusUdgivet - 2018

ID: 202947986