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Centre of African Studies: Events


Enduring the Politics of Saving Lives: Zombies and the Ebola Outbreak

Enduring the Politics of Saving Lives: Zombies and the Ebola Outbreak
Speaker: Veronica Gomez-Temesio # University of Copenhagen
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Date and Time
13th Mar 2019 16:10 - 13th Mar 2019 17:30
Seminar rooms 1 & 2, Chrystal Macmillan Building, Edinburgh, EH8 9LD

How do people inhabited their life when they seemed condemned to a social death? 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, its concrete procedures failed to preserve political existence. Zombies also related to the legacy of the slave trade. Connecting the zombie with the postcolonial context of Guinea, I argue that humanitarian teams were dealing with already devalued lives. But even when people experienced subjection, they never lived in pure subjection: No matter their tragic fate, people tried to frame their experience in their own terms. Yet, their attempts to recreate the ordinariness of life, even under the direst of circumstances, challenge the limits between political existence and biological life. Zombies are thus the ones who outlived not only death in life but also conceptual death.

Edinburgh Students