Since the devastating outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2014-15, concern about deadly diseases with pandemic potential has grown significantly. As a result, the concept of disease ‘preparedness’ has shot to prominence in global health policy.
However, local people’s understandings of these diseases and their knowledge in preparing for them is often ignored. This research will highlight the importance of local perspectives to disease response which have not been fully recognised and supported in global discourses so far. The project will ask who is being prepared, for what, and by whom?
The research examines ‘preparedness from below’ – the understandings and practices of communities through which they anticipate and manage disease threats on a daily basis. In particular, global and local approaches might offer quite different ways of addressing three key themes which are central to our inquiry:
- Risk and uncertainty
- Knowledge and information
- Agency and authority
Research will be conducted on preparedness at three levels: global, regional, and local, linking to established institutional architectures and practices as well as exploring local level responses to everyday uncertainties.
The local-level fieldwork will be conducted in Sierra Leone and Uganda. It will involve oral histories, participatory research and ethnographic fieldwork conducted in four sites, which will track how people currently understand and deal with health events and threats.
We will track interconnections through interviews with global, regional and national actors – how particular ideas, frameworks, and assumptions travel and flow both ‘upwards’ and ‘downwards’,. We aim to identify entry points and pathways for connecting global, intermediate and local ‘assemblages’ in ways that build on, enhance and support the legitimacy and agency of communities’ ‘preparedness from below’.
Partner organisations include: