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Epidemic Illusions: On the Coloniality of Global Public Health

Brigham Authors: Eugene Richardson; Foreword by Paul Farmer


In Epidemic Illusions, physician and anthropologist Eugene Richardson, MD, PhD, of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Division of Global Health Equity, contends that public health practices — from epidemiological modeling to outbreak containment — play an essential role in perpetuating a range of global inequities. Richardson describes how the flagship discipline of epidemiology has used models of disease causation that set limits on a common understanding of why some groups live sicker lives than others. He utilizes postcolonial theory, medical anthropology and critical science studies to demonstrate the ways in which epidemiology has been shaped by colonial, racist and patriarchal systems that had their inception in 1492. Drawing on his clinical work in a variety of epidemics, including Ebola in West Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, leishmania in the Sudan, HIV/TB in southern Africa, diphtheria in Bangladesh, and SARS-CoV-2 in the United States, he concludes that the biggest epidemic we currently face is an epidemic of illusions — one that is propagated by the coloniality of knowledge production.


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