WP 3: Borders of contagion and containment in southern Senegal

Lead by Charline Kopf with Fatoumata Hane and Wenzel Geissler (mentor).

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Keep the social distance. Health control taking place at the Border Post in Sambailo, Guinea (Photo: Donghyuk PARK, 2020)

WP3 focuses on how the containment of epidemics within (or outside) national boundaries, and related mobility-restricting measures, have continuously shaped national territories, borders and spaces of public health. Mobility-restricting responses to COVID-19 are to some extent traces of previous epidemic experiences, health routines and infrastructures. Travel bans, border closures, quarantines and curfews have historically been widely used measures to control infectious diseases. In Senegal, lazarettos and medical passports issued during the third plague (1917-1920) or more recently, new border health procedures and posts installed during Ebola (2014-2016), testify to specific histories of disease prevention and control. COVID-19 has once again laid bare the contested nature of these measures and the tension between the national assertion of a territorial and ‘sanitary’ sovereignty and international governance. Imperial geographies of disease control carry past inequalities into the present, while mobility restrictions negatively affect state-citizen relationships. While the latter often fuel regional and national xenophobia, they also locally result in unrests, often exacerbated by police violence, generating issues about state authority, legitimacy and trust.

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Border Barrier, Nafadji Border Post, Guinea  (Photo: Donghyuk PARK, 2020)


To examine spatial patterns of disease control in the Casamance region, bordering the Gambia, Guinea-Conakry and Guinea-Bissau – especially how mobility-restricting responses to Ebola framed containment strategies for Covid-19 - against the backdrop of regional histories, cross-border mobilities and epidemics.


What role do spatial restrictions play in epidemic spread and control? How have national space, border landscapes, transport hubs and mobilities been reconfigured in epidemic response? How were state-citizen relations affected by this over time?


Through an ethnographic approach grounded in participant observation, the postdoc will identify institutions involved in the border response plan to the Ebola and COVID-19 outbreaks and follow awareness-raising campaigns and epidemic simulation exercises led by governmental, non-governmental and community-based organisations in the border regions of Casamance. To examine how the circulation of bodies, material artifacts and invisible pathogens meet in these mobility-related discussions and regulations, the postdoc will trace bureaucratic procedures and sanitary checks at points of entry (PoE) including IDs, circulation permits, medical and security checks, apps like M-Ebola and biometric controls. Working in collaboration with historians and geographers at the university of Ziguinchor in Casamance, the study will rely on a participatory approach with residents, traders and truckers to geographically map how epidemic containment regulations have reordered everyday mobilities and cross-border flows, thereby exploring the socio-spatial impact of these regulations on daily practices and understandings of borders, and what resistance they might trigger. These maps will also work as a starting point for collecting residents’ and medical staff’s memories of previous epidemic-related mobility regulations and infrastructures, which will be complemented by archival work at IFAN (Fundamental Institute of Black Africa) and national archives in Dakar.

Published Nov. 12, 2021 11:21 AM - Last modified Aug. 3, 2022 2:09 PM