Ecologies of evidence in a mysterious epidemic

  • Briggs C
Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.


An epidemic in a Venezuelan rainforest in 2007-2008 killed thirty-eight children and young adults, puzzling clinicians, epidemiologists, and healers alike for over a year. This essay traces the way each contribution to knowledge production formed part of a larger 'ecology of evidence'. Focusing on how the parents' knowledge was exploited and denigrated by clinicians, epidemiologists, and healers alike points to the 'health/communicative inequities'-grossly unequal distributions of access to the production and circulation of evidence-that structured ecologies of evidence in ways that thwarted diagnosis. Recruiting a nurse, a healer, a physician, and an anthropologist, two indigenous leaders launched an investigation that juxtaposed parents' narratives, vernacular healing, epidemiology, and clinical medicine, resulting in a clinical diagnosis of bat-transmitted rabies. This case suggests that perspectives in global health will fail to become fully critical unless they attend to health/communicative inequities, how they structure ecologies of evidence, and strategies for transforming them.




Briggs, C. L. (2016). Ecologies of evidence in a mysterious epidemic. Medicine Anthropology Theory | An Open-Access Journal in the Anthropology of Health, Illness, and Medicine, 3(2), 149.

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free