Charles L. Briggs

“Bats, Rabies, Reporters, and the Wrath of the State: On the Limits of Anthropological Knowledge”

Charles L. BriggsCharles L. Briggs2009–2010 Resident ScholarCharles L. Briggs2009–2010 Resident ScholarWith Clara Mantini-Briggs, an SAR Visiting Research Associate this year, Charles Briggs worked on a book about “an epidemic of an unknown disease, a mysterious disease that emerged in 2007 in a rainforest area of eastern Venezuela called the Delta Amacuro,” he said. “It’s a book that thinks about how people facing the worst health conditions in the world have been able to imagine a best case scenario and to work valiantly toward that goal and how they recruited us along the way to diagnose the disease, to document it, to bring together anthropology, indigenous leadership, the way in which families had seen the death of their children, and epidemiology and clinical medicine, and to take this to the national government.”

From the Interview

“There was a way in which indigenous people suggested that we demand recognition for the fact that they, too, make invaluable knowledge about health. They know what’s going on in their community and are capable of coming up, in collaboration with health planners and doctors, with important ways to think about a better future.”

Why does your work matter?

“We’re talking about six people, one boat, no money, and a few medicines taking on an epidemic.”—Charles L. Briggs“I think I can say, humbly, that this work matters deeply. And the reason I can say that, and add the word humbly, is that it’s not my work, and it’s not just Clara’s work, this is the work of an indigenous community, and particularly here the work of four indigenous leaders who recruited us. So it’s a collective work, a collaborative work, it’s a work that imagines a new future at the same time that it looks at a very, very difficult present—fortunately now we could say ‘past’ because it seems as if no new cases of this mysterious disease have emerged in Venezuela.”

Find out more about Charles L. Briggs by visiting the SAR website (opens in new browser window).

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