Is Ebola the “The ISIS of Disease?": When Counter-Terrorism Meets Humanitarian Medicine



Adia Benton, Northwestern University

Date and Time

March 10, 2021 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM


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Virtual Seminar

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Seminar Recording:


About the Event: This chapter builds on my earlier writing during the West African Ebola outbreak, in which I argue that health security paradigms and militarized health interventions engender “defensiveness” in landscapes of care, while they also intensify already securitized landscapes and relationships of development and humanitarian aid. In this chapter, I include insights about the US-authored Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), to suggest that the Government of Sierra Leone’s 2014 adoption of the agenda has helped to strengthen containment and control paradigms at the expense of care, and to prioritize the collection and management of disease event data over other pressing concerns related to health care delivery (cf. Benton 2015). Specifically, I analyze global health security policy discourse and practice outlined in the GHSA and militarized health interventions as they travel and settle in four disparate sites: a rural clinic in eastern Sierra Leone (see Kardas-Nelson and Frankfurter 2018); abandoned and repurposed treatment centers; the Imperial War Museum’s temporary exhibit “Fighting Extremes: From Ebola to Isis;” and US and Sierra Leonean political rhetoric explicitly linking Ebola virus disease and terrorism (whether by metaphor, analogy, or literal means). Reading across these sites, I show how projects of counter-terrorism and humanitarianism subtend global health policy, and become institutionalized in and through the everyday management of public health provision.


About the Speaker: Adia Benton is an associate professor of Anthropology and African Studies at Northwestern University, where she is affiliated with the Science in Human Culture Program. She is the author of the award-winning book, HIV Exceptionalism: Development through Disease in Sierra Leone, and is currently writing a book about the West African Ebola outbreak.