Epidemic Illusions: On the Coloniality of Global Public Health
A physician-anthropologist explores how public health practices--from epidemiological modeling to outbreak containment--help perpetuate global inequities. In Epidemic Illusions, Eugene Richardson, a physician and an anthropologist, contends that public health practices--from epidemiological modeling and outbreak containment to Big Data and causal inference--play an essential role in perpetuating a range of global inequities. Drawing on postcolonial theory, medical anthropology, and critical science studies, Richardson demonstrates the ways in which the flagship discipline of epidemiology has been shaped by the colonial, racist, and patriarchal system that had its inception in 1492. Deploying a range of rhetorical tools and 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, Richardson concludes that the biggest epidemic we currently face is an epidemic of illusions—one that is propagated by the coloniality of knowledge production.