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The oughtness of care: Fear, stress, and caregiving during the 2000–2001 Ebola outbreak in Gulu, Uganda

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  • Park, Sung-Joon
  • Akello, Grace

Abstract

In this article we introduce the term oughtness of care to show how caring for sick relatives was experienced in the context of the Ebola outbreak in Gulu, Uganda, in 2000–2001. We conducted fieldwork over a nine month period from July 2016 to March 2017 in the suburbs of Lacor, Bardege, Pece Lukung, Kasubi, Limu, and Kanyagoga Koro Layibi, Rwot Obilo, all of which were epicenters for Ebola. In addition, we conducted interviews in the districts of Amuru, Kitgum, and Lamwo, where some interlocutors had resettled following the end of the war that was affecting Gulu at the time of the Ebola outbreak. Of the 198 interlocutors in the focus group discussions, we followed up on 98 for further group and individual interviews. Our analysis principally provides a retrospective ethnographic study of caregivers' moral experiences of the need to care for sick relatives during the outbreak. In our study, respondents argued that they would rather respond to the compelling need to offer care for intimate others at home or in a healthcare institution, rather than listen to sensitization messages not to touch sick patients. We introduce the term oughtness of care to enable us to understand how caregiving, which caregivers experienced as a moral logic draws its justification from the specific situation of radical insecurity which they were thrown into. We argue that this caregiving has its own logic, which is insufficiently captured by conventional public health approaches to containing Ebola outbreaks. Caregivers are, in consequence, not recognized as ethical subjects by such public health interventions. By providing an understanding of the moral experience of caregiving and the distinct logic of care, our analysis contributes to the development of relevant and effective public health responses to Ebola epidemics.

Suggested Citation

  • Park, Sung-Joon & Akello, Grace, 2017. "The oughtness of care: Fear, stress, and caregiving during the 2000–2001 Ebola outbreak in Gulu, Uganda," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 194(C), pages 60-66.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:194:y:2017:i:c:p:60-66
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.10.010
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Calain, Philippe & Poncin, Marc, 2015. "Reaching out to Ebola victims: Coercion, persuasion or an appeal for self-sacrifice?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 126-133.
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