Geography Webex Seminar:
The Plague After Death: A Political Ecology of the Underground in Madagascar

Date

Apr 17 2020

Time

3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
For this seminar’s Webex access link, please email Kevon Rhiney.

Abstract:

In Madagascar’s central highlands, outbreaks of bubonic plague occur annually. At the turn of the twentieth century, the French implemented strict plague control measures, including rules for burying the dead. These rules persist and have strained Malagasy people’s relationships to their deceased ancestors. The rules stipulate that plague victims must not be buried in familial tombs but in unmarked pits.  And they must not be exhumed for a secondary burial ritual or transferred for a period of at least seven years. Colonial-era scientists conjectured that Yersinia pestis, the plague bacterium, might survive in subterranean tombs. Scientists today surmise that plague bacteria may survive in rodent burrow systems, which leaves open the question of whether bodies buried in plague pits are implicated in the plague’s persistence in the environment.

Anthropologists of zoonosis have focused on multispecies interactions and social inequalities of the surface. A political ecology of the plague, however, compels the ethnographer to investigate what lies beneath: to explore the speculative underground ecology that has guided terrifying mortuary policies, and to learn how health inequities alter the microbial life of the soil and breed resistance.


Date

Apr 17 2020

Time

3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Organizer

Dept of Geography
Website
https://geography.rutgers.edu/