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Family business: work, neighbourhood life, coming of age, and death in the time of Ebola in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Lipton, Jonah (2017) Family business: work, neighbourhood life, coming of age, and death in the time of Ebola in Freetown, Sierra Leone. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.jpzeph36am68


In 2014 the Ebola virus entered Sierra Leone, soon to become the epicentre of a global health crisis. A state of emergency was declared, propped up by a large-scale and far-reaching humanitarian intervention; characterised by stringent bureaucratic and biomedical protocols, restrictions on social and economic life, and novel monetary flows. Based on 17 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, immediately before and during the state of emergency, the thesis presents an intimate account of the lives and social worlds of young men living in an urban neighbourhood. The thesis outlines the centrality of the domestic sphere – home, neighbourhood, and family – in young men’s projects of coming of age, as well as in surviving and brokering ‘crisis’ and foreign intervention. Rather than ‘crisis’ halting the processes of social reproduction, such processes became central means through which a conflict between ‘foreign’ and ‘local’ expectations – brought to the fore by external intervention – was reconciled and negotiated. The thesis demonstrates how a political economy of crisis maps onto core social tensions between independence and dependence that young men ambiguously negotiate around the home, and how resultant social practices and understandings connect to Freetown’s deeper and more recent histories of intervention, crisis, and entanglement with the Atlantic World.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Jonah Lipton
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: James, Deborah and Engelke, Matthew

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