Book Review: The political life of an epidemic: Cholera, crisis and citizenship in Zimbabwe –Simukai Chigudu, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2020, pp.346.


  • Jefferson Ndimande University of California Santa Barbara


Zooming in on the cholera outbreak of 2008-09, Simukai Chigudu explores the social and political origins of the epidemic which, arguably, was historically and politically manufactured. Chigudu reasons that the cholera epidemic was not isolated, ‘shocking’ moment; instead, it was the final stage of drawn-out, contingent processes rooted in questions of political economy such as the inadequate delivery of public goods, and failing livelihood strategies and profound social inequalities. Drawing from the fields of sociology of disasters, critical medical anthropology and the anthropology of citizenship, Chigudu uses cholera to show how the epidemic unfolded in the urban centres, its social impact, official and communal responses to it, and the epidemic’s afterlives in civic and public life. By examining, and studying the cholera epidemic, Chigudu sheds light on the politics of urban health, notions of citizenship in postcolonial Zimbabwe, social and political humanitarian aid.






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