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The Fondation Brocher is an essential player in this vital thinking process: one which will help make us aware of the real challenges in using our resources for maximum impact on the health of the people of the world.



Professor Daniel Wikler, Harvard University


The Brocher Foundation is a Swiss non-profit private foundation  recognized of public interest. Your donations are tax deductible according to the regulations in force.


November 26 - 27, 2018

Ethnographic Data as Epidemiological Evidence


Day 1 26/11/2018

Welcome and Introduction
9:00-9:30 Carlo Caduff , Ann Kelly and Christos Lynteris

Session 1
9:30-12:00 Rethinking Cause
Main purpose/theme of session: To examine the notions of cause and origin in the production of epidemiological claims about health, disease and security.

1. Frédéric Keck (CNRS/Collège de France), Bird release as epidemiological evidence and as a challenge to epidemiology: from pastoral to cynegetic rationality

2. Séverine Thys (The Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp), Biomedical approach versus popular interpretations: ethnographic information on the origin of Ebola in Macenta, Guinea.

3. Ann H. Kelly (King’s College London), The MacDonald Model vs. Detinova Technique: An ethnographic amplification of malaria transmission

4. Christos Lynteris (University of St Andrews), Zoonosis hiding in plain sight: The Mahamari plague in colonial Kumaon and Garhwal

Coffee break 12:00-12:30

Roundtable 1
12:30-13:30 Emergence and Persistence: Is an ethnography of disease ecology possible?
Chair: Christos Lynteris (University of St Andrews)
Main purpose/theme of session: To discuss how anthropologists can shift their attention from epidemic crises or singular animal-human interactions so as to engage with ethnographic accounts of complex disease ecologies, and the way in which information produced in this manner may be rendered epidemiologically actionable.

13:30-14:30 Lunch

Session 2
14:30-16:30 Ethnographic Epidemiology/Epidemiological Ethnography
Main purpose/theme of session: To comparatively characterise the epistemic, ethical and political forces that underpin the production of epidemiological and ethnographic knowledge.

1. Vinh Kim Nguyen (The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies), Anthropology and medical research in West Africa’s Ebola epidemic

2. James Fairhead (University of Sussex), The idea of 'Patient Zero' in the narration and comparative analysis of (Ebola) epidemic origins.

3. Eugene Raikhel (University of Chicago), “A ghastly natural experiment”: on post-socialism and the relations between ethnographic and epidemiological knowledge

16:30-17:00 Coffee break

Session 3
17:00-19:00 Socialities of Epidemic Evidence
Main purpose/theme of session: To critically examine the performative power of epidemics as a social phenomena and the distinct forms of research, evidence and narrative they enable.

1. Lukas Engelmann (University of Edinburgh), Epidemiology as Narrative Science: Outbreak reports of the third plague pandemic from 1894 to 1952

2. Marsha Rosengarten (Goldsmiths, University of London), HIV and Ebola: attending to patterns for the making of a different future

3. David Ruebi (King’s College London), The Social in Social Epidemiology

19:00 Dinner

Day 2 27/11/2018

Roundtable 2
09:00-10:00 Field-Based Collaboration and the Co-Production of Evidence
Chair: Carlo Caduff (King’s College London)
Main purpose/theme of session: To reflect on experiences of co-production of evidence between anthropologists and epidemiologists in recent epidemic crises and identify methods for closer collaboration on the bases of a mutual understanding of evidentiary goals and methods.

10:00-10:30 Coffee Break

Session 4
10:30 -13:00 The Productivity of Mistranslations
Main purpose/theme of session: To explore misunderstandings and mistranslations of epidemiological/ethnographic information and document the consequences in concrete cases

1. Guillaume Lachenal (Université Paris Diderot), “A beautiful description of the epidemic”. The ethnography of a false Ebola outbreak in Eastern Cameroon.

2. Charles Briggs (University of California, Berkeley), Communicative health inequities: how epidemiological research and vulnerable populations face the same "risk factor”

3. Rashid Ansumana (Mercy Hospital Bo), Doing Research And Providing Healthcare At The Frontline

4. Lochlann Jain (Stanford University), The Hepatitis B Vaccine: Final Trials

13:00-14:00 Lunch

Closing Discussion 14:00-15:00


Contemporary global health is characterised by an attention to the complex social, cultural, political and ecological contexts of disease. Recent global health crises such as the Ebola epidemic have underlined the importance of social and cultural sensitivity for responding to an outbreak, while the rise in chronic conditions has made health behaviors, understanding and lifestyle choices key objects of intervention. The ever-increasing demand for ethnography in reducing the risk of disease spread raises a number of important questions: How is ethnographic information transformed into epidemiological evidence? What are the epistemological, ethical and political implications of this “translation”? How are different genres of evidence integrated into understanding, controlling and communicating the risks of an epidemic? This conference seeks to bring together medical anthropologists, epidemiologists and scholars working at the intersections of disease control and the social sciences in order to examine the prospects and risks of an epidemiological elaboration of ethnographic insights.