The Ebola Crisis in Sierra Leone: Mediating Containment and Engagement in Humanitarian Emergencies

Luisa Enria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (SciVal)


This article explores how framings of the 2014–16 outbreak of Ebola as a crisis, its causes, nature and consequences gave rise to two seemingly contradictory types of interventions within affected communities in Sierra Leone: a militarized state of emergency on the one hand, and efforts to foster local engagement and ownership on the other. Teasing out explicitly the underlying logic of these two modes of response, we are able to discern the convergence between containment and engagement approaches that are at the heart of contemporary humanitarianism. Rather than being opposed or contradictory, the article shows how they were mutually constitutive, through negotiations between different ways of knowing and responding to the Ebola crisis. The resulting divisive practices, juxtaposing ‘Ebola heroes’ and ‘dangerous bodies’, re‐ordered the landscapes that individuals had to navigate in order to manage uncertainty. Tracing these logics through to the ‘subjects’ of intervention, the article tells the story of one traditional healer's ‘epistemic navigations’ in his efforts to survive both the epidemic and its response. Bringing these dynamics and their consequences to the fore in the Sierra Leonean case invites broader reflections on a humanitarian assemblage increasingly reliant on the mutual constitution of containment and engagement, security and resilience, in its approach to managing ‘at risk’ populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1602-1623
Number of pages22
JournalDevelopment and Change
Issue number6
Early online date6 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'The Ebola Crisis in Sierra Leone: Mediating Containment and Engagement in Humanitarian Emergencies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this