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The Political Life of an Epidemic


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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; Conclusion. More to admire than despise?

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Reveals how the crisis of Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak of 2008-9 had profound implications for political institutions and citizenship.

About the Author

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.


'Chigudu has captured perfectly the political trajectory of a tragedy that formed not only political discourse but political subjectivities - reflected in the rich testimonies he has gathered. It is a book rich in its detail, ultimately bleak, and helps us understand the political condition of Zimbabwe.' Stephen Chan, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
'This compelling book offers important insights into the complex and often disturbing relationship between politics, public health, humanitarianism, state-making and citizen-making. With narrative eloquence that reinforces both its analytical strength and political relevance, it makes a critical contribution to multiple academic and policy fields.' Amanda Hammar, University of Copenhagen
'Written with passion, Chigudu powerfully conveys the lived experience of disease, recognises both the impact and limits of humanitarian efforts, and weaves this into a compelling account of state transformation and the struggle for substantive citizenship in Zimbabwe. It should be required reading across the medical and social sciences.' JoAnn McGregor, University of Sussex
'Like all first-rate studies of epidemics, Chigudu's book uses a story of contagion to meditate on a host of critical questions - about political power, about cities, about public institutions, about humanitarianism. This arresting, superbly written book will be of great interest to scholars across the social sciences.' Jonny Steinberg, University of Oxford
'Chigudu's dissection of the historical, political and economic dimensions of a Zimbabwean public health crisis is clinical in its precision and profoundly disturbing. It is a devastating account of an epidemic, a sophisticated analysis of the political economy of Zimbabwe and of the shortcomings of international humanitarian aid.' Megan Vaughan, University College London

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