It was only a year ago that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was highly visible. Images of health workers dressed in hot and heavy hazmat gear, body bags being tossed into shallow graves, and press conferences with top international health officials routinely peppered the nightly news cycle.
Perhaps you, like me, promptly added a week on the Ebola crisis to your introductory course on global health, the politics of humanitarianism, African history, media studies, race and social justice, or science and technology studies. Or maybe you featured the epidemic prominently in your course on postcolonial futures or war and its afterlives. Or maybe you put together an entire syllabus on the Ebola crisis of 2014 and 2015.
In spring 2015, teaching about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa as part of a general unit on postcolonial science, medicine, and technology, I found myself cobbling together a lot of different media sources in a quest to close the distance between our comfortable classroom in California and the streets of Monrovia or Freetown. I opted to stitch together the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes piece on treatment camps in Liberia, which focused almost exclusively on the plight of white emergency physicians, some short documentary footage from Sierra Leone via Okayafrica, and Donka: X-Ray of an African Hospital, a deeply affecting documentary on a day in the life of Guinea’s major public hospital in Conakry in the wake of structural adjustment.
In 2015, as many of us prepare our syllabuses and return to the classroom, I highly recommend putting In the Shadow of Ebola at the top of your list for teaching about a crisis that is still quietly unfolding in West Africa, despite the forgetfulness of Western media.