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DECOLONIZING EPIDEMICS: POWER STRUCTURES THAT DEFINE, NAME, AND FRAME MEDICAL DISASTERS

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dc.creator Elizabeth Ferguson
dc.date.accessioned 2022-01-25T19:05:54Z
dc.date.available 2022-01-25T19:05:54Z
dc.date.issued 2019
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/1920/12311
dc.description.abstract This dissertation argues that epidemics represent a failure of systems. When an epidemic can be understood not as a solid, specific, discrete, scientific term, but rather an operational space, it reveals all the systems at work therein, and enables an appreciation of the epidemic as a cultural and rhetorical phenomenon rather than a mere biological, scientific, or epidemiological occurrence. Epidemics are rhetorically constructed through the practices of defining, naming, and framing the epidemic event. In these situations, the global North exerts power over the global South by reasserting colonial power structures and silencing voices from the epidemic’s location. This project incorporated colonial gaze theory (Chapter 2); in the “colonial gaze,” viewer engages in two fundamental ways of looking (Eeden, 2004; Columpar, 2002). He looks upon land and sees it void of history, culture, or people, and foregrounds comparisons of race and ethnicity to the viewer. This translates into a power differential where the viewer objectifies the people, land, and culture within their gaze. Chapter 3 presents a new theory of epidemic space and maps how the 2014 EVD epidemic functioned within this epidemic space to reveal opportunities for rhetorical interventions. This theory can be applied to different epidemics to understand where rhetorical interventions are or are not possible. Chapter 4 explores the key places and organizations that created the epidemic space for the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Chapter 5 reveals how purportedly democratizing social media platforms can also reify existing power structures. Even though MSF utilized and maximized the full ethos-building power afforded to them on Twitter, their voices were still silenced by the spokesman from WHO. Chapter 6 examines the power of narrative to rhetorically construct the epidemic and investigates how narrative built from pre-existing colonial narratives distorts the understanding of transmission risks. Specifically, the narrative built in the GN from bushmeat warnings in the GS was that Africans were going to smuggle bushmeat into the U.S. or UK and thereby transmit the EVD epidemic to these countries. This project calls on researchers in the fields of international technical communication and medical rhetoric to reimagine points of rhetorical intervention during a medical disaster offers and agency in spaces where opportunities to effect change are otherwise elusive. When foundations and even definitions are questioned, deconstructed, and reimaged, it opens up new possibilities for action in this new space.
dc.title DECOLONIZING EPIDEMICS: POWER STRUCTURES THAT DEFINE, NAME, AND FRAME MEDICAL DISASTERS
thesis.degree.level Ph.D.
thesis.degree.discipline English
thesis.degree.grantor George Mason University


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