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Title: 'State of emergency' : the politics of Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak, 2008/09
Author: Chigudu, Simukai
ISNI:       0000 0004 6500 9524
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis examines the politics of Zimbabwe's catastrophic cholera outbreak in 2008/09, which caused an unprecedented 98,000 cases and over 4,000 deaths. Epidemiologically, the outbreak can be explained by the breakdown of the country's water and sanitation systems. Such a reading, however, belies the byzantine political, economic and historical processes that precipitated the dysfunction of the water systems, that delineate the socio-spatial pattern of the outbreak and that account for the fragmented and inadequate response of the national health system. The complex causal factors and the far-reaching consequences of the outbreak indicate that cholera is a unique prism through which to view different political phenomena including the dilemmas and contradictions of political change, bureaucratic order, humanitarianism, crisis and citizenship in Zimbabwe. Drawing on extensive field research, I make three inter-locking arguments in this thesis. First, I argue that Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak was a 'man-made' disaster. It was the final stage of both path-dependent and contingent processes rooted in questions of political economy such as the collapse of public health infrastructure, failing livelihood strategies and violent repression. Second, I argue that cholera reproduced and exacerbated a multiplicity of socio-political crises pertaining to the legitimacy of the Zimbabwean state, the nature of structural inequalities in Zimbabwean society and fundamental flaws in the global humanitarian response to epidemics. Third, I look at the myriad meanings, memories and narratives the epidemic has left in its wake across public institutions and in civic life. I argue that cholera has been committed to historical memory as a health crisis, a political-economic crisis, and a social crisis as well as a crisis of expectations, history and social identity.
Supervisor: Alexander, Jocelyn Sponsor: Hoffman-Weidenfeld Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Politics and government ; Development studies ; Global health ; Politics ; Zimbabwe ; Humanitarianism ; Cholera ; Epidemics