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The recent Ebola epidemic ravaging the Mano river countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia attracts worldwide comment and interventions on the ground. The latter are primarily undertaken by medical doctors and healthcare specialists from, for example, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) or the World Health Organization (WHO). This is not surprising: ebola is, after all, a virus that causes a fatal illness. Medical doctors or biologists are the specialists that come to mind immediately when we hear about viruses and diseases. However, the expertise of anthropologists is increasingly needed to better understand and respond to the epidemic. Doctors treat sick bodies and biologists attempt to contain viruses. Anthropologists, by contrast, do not focus on disease or micro-organisms but on people and illness. In doing so, they situate individuals in context, they examine physical bodies in relation to the Ebola: the need for anthropological expertise socio-cultural body of society. The current ebola crisis needs these insights in order to debunk qualifications by outsiders of observed social and cultural practices surrounding the disease as ignorant or irrational at best and Africans infected by the disease as inhuman at worst. In the meantime, an extensive collection of blog posts by anthropologists on, for example, the website of the journal Cultural Anthropology, the Ebola fieldnotes section on the medical anthropological website Somatosphere or the newly created Ebola Response Anthropology Platform has become available. Recurring themes are the spread of the disease through burial rituals, attempts to make sense of responses by local inhabitants towards health interventions by state agents and members of (inter-) national and non-governmental organizations and, more generally, critical appraisals of reporting by Western mainstream media. I summarize the main contours of the debate in these three domains below. these rhetoric of bushmeat. Even more troubling is the political geography of ebola as illustrated by powerful visualizations: the world starts paying attention when ebola leaves Africa, but not so much when the virus erupts but stays in Africa. Having ebola stay where it is definitely makes sense from the perspective of epidemiological containment but also points towards an underlying issue characterizing the socio-political background of the affected countries. And also here, contextual and historical understanding as offered by anthropologists can shed some light on observed dynamics. A number of observers have identified two related processes: the national responses to the outbreak has been rather militarized and the reaction of local inhabitants to this response has often been distrustful, at times violent with local state agents and health workers being attacked. Why? A long history of corruption and misus e of government officials and authority figures marks Guinea and a similar pattern exacerbated by the experiences of war characterizes the socio-political landscape in Sierra Leone and Liberia. What seems like irrational behaviour – warding off health care workers and state officials - becomes intelligible when situated in context. This type of behaviour makes perfect sense when taking into account the historical experience of war and mistreatment and is far from irrational when considered in context. Therefore, this type of anthropological knowledge facilitates changes in the approach adopted, for example, by not referring to medical facilities as ‘isolation centres’ but ‘treatment facilities’ instead. Such a subtle change of language makes a huge difference amidst a population all too familiar with government-sponsored displacement and social disruption. The above-mentioned militaristic or purely medical approach towards the epidemic is also at odds with the ethics of care and the rituals of burial deemed culturally appropriate in the affected region. Hence the wary reactions of the local population who consider these interventions from the outside as ignorant and irrational in their turn. So, we are dealing here with two poles, the local population vs the health care workers, who do not understand each other. In general, it is the task of the anthropologist to function as a broker of knowledge between cultures and facilitate a dialogue where a conversation seems impossible. burial rites have been identified by anthropologist as a channel through which the disease spreads. Evidently, giving the nature of the transmission of the virus, both practices are detrimental to the effort to contain the epidemic. Simply banning these practices is unproductive and provokes resistance by the local population as highlighted above. Also here, anthropological expertise is able to mediate between these local belief systems and the medical and biohazard paradigm imposed from the outside. Slowly, development agencies and health care professionals have come to appreciate the usefulness of anthropological expertise as illustrated by the Department for International Development’s (DfID) financial support for an anthropological platform in response to the ebola crisis. “we are dealing here with two poles, the local population vs the health care workers, who do not understand each other” In doing so, anthropological analysis of ‘the management of the dead’ illustrates that the bodies of the deceased require proper treatment before and during burial in order to safeguard vital links between the living and deceased. This often involves a tactile relationship with the dead body infected with ebola. Moreover, marriage arrangements at times require bodies to be transported over long distances. At the same time, these care-giving practices and Bert Ingelaere The coverage of ebola by some of Western media lays bare the image of and interest in Africa in the rest of the world. The spread of this killer disease is, once again, used to associate Africa with the heart of darkness. Generally this happens when images of machete-wielding killers or Kalashnikov-carrying child soldiers flood our TV and computer screens. The violence is interpreted as wanton and senseless, tribal and ancient. The message is thus: there is nothing to do about it. A similar image arises with the ebola outbreak as epitomized by a recent cover of Time Magazine: Africans are living in a state of nature - what else can we expect? Anthropologists have criticized 14 15