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The Political Life of an Epidemic

The Political Life of an Epidemic
Cholera, Crisis and Citizenship in Zimbabwe

  • Publication planned for: April 2020
  • availability: Not yet published - available from April 2020
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108489102

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  • Zimbabwe's catastrophic cholera outbreak of 2008–9 saw an unprecedented number of people affected, with 100,000 cases and nearly 5,000 deaths. Cholera, however, was much more than a public health crisis: it represented the nadir of the country's deepening political and economic crisis of 2008. This study focuses on the political life of the cholera epidemic, tracing the historical origins of the outbreak, examining the social pattern of its unfolding and impact, analysing the institutional and communal responses to the disease, and marking the effects of its aftermath. Across different social and institutional settings, competing interpretations and experiences of the cholera epidemic created charged social and political debates. In his examination of these debates which surrounded the breakdown of Zimbabwe's public health infrastructure and failing bureaucratic order, the scope and limitations of disaster relief, and the country's profound levels of livelihood poverty and social inequality, Simukai Chigudu reveals how this epidemic of a preventable disease had profound implications for political institutions and citizenship in Zimbabwe.

    • Shows how cholera, a preventable disease, became a national crisis in 2008 with implications for political institutions and citizenship in Zimbabwe
    • Offers a new theory of epidemics by applying concepts from medical philosophy to a specific historical event
    • Challenges the view of epidemics as purely biological events revealing their complexity in an accessible way to a non-specialist audience
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    Product details

    • Publication planned for: April 2020
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108489102
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 mm
    • availability: Not yet published - available from April 2020
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction. Stories and politics of cholera
    1. The making of urban (dis)order: situating the cholera outbreak in historical perspective
    2. 'When people eat shit': cholera and the collapse of Zimbabwe's public health infrastructure
    3. Emergency politics: cholera as a national disaster
    4. The salvation agenda: medical humanitarianism and the response to cholera
    5. 'People were dying like flies': the social contours of cholera in Harare's high-density townships
    6. Conclusion. More to admire than despise?

  • Author

    Simukai Chigudu, University of Oxford
    Simukai Chigudu is Associate Professor of African Politics at the University of Oxford, and Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford. He was awarded the biennial Audrey Richards Prize for the best doctoral thesis in African Studies examined at a UK university. He is the author of several articles in leading academic journals including African Affairs, Critical African Studies, and Health Policy and Planning. He worked as a medical doctor before moving into academia.

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