APPLICATIONS ARE INVITED FOR THE FOLLOWING ANTHROPOLOGY PHD STUDENTSHIP at the School of Oriental & African Studies & London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, University of London

Due: 15:00 UK time, Thursday, 5th March 2020


Principal supervisor: Professor Paul Basu, SOAS

Co-Supervisor: Professor Melissa Parker, LSHTM

Award includes tuition fees and a stipend of £17,009 including London Weighting (at 2019/20 rates, so slightly higher for 2020 entry)

100% FTE for 3 years, from September 2020.

Project Description: The West African Ebola outbreak of 2013-16 caused significant loss of life and huge social and economic disruption in the countries most seriously affected: Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Fatality rates were extremely high: according to WHO, of 28,611 recorded cases 11,307 were fatal. The outbreak was met with an hysterical response in the international media, resulting in the dissemination of misinformation and a deepening sense of a global pandemic. The international management of the crisis received much criticism, and anthropologists, in particular, made important contributions to the development of more effective policies to bring the outbreak under control, notably by promoting the understanding of the social context of the disease and recognising the value of indigenous responses.

In Sierra Leone, in the immediate aftermath of the Ebola epidemic, there were a number of attempts to memorialise the traumatic experience and to ensure that lessons learnt during the crisis were not forgotten. Some of this commemoration was focused around the large cemeteries in which victims of the epidemic were interred, including the vast cemetery outside Waterloo, in Sierra Leone’s Western Area. Other initiatives have included the proposed establishment of a National Ebola Museum and Archive on the campus of Njala University near Bo. Meanwhile, the crisis is, of course, remembered in many informal ways, not least by the families of those who lost loved ones to the epidemic and who have had to rebuild their lives in the shadow of this loss.

This PhD project seeks to explore how ‘Ebola’ is remembered both publicly and privately in Sierra Leone. It will investigate this ethnographically through engagement with a range of ‘sites of memory’, including national and local cemeteries, material legacies, archival traces, initiatives such as the National Ebola Museum and Archive, and, most importantly, in the family. In public discourse, it asks to what purpose are attempts to maintain a national memory of the crisis directed. How does this interface with continuing calls for better ‘pandemic preparedness’? In the private sphere, the project investigates the mnemonic practices of families affected by the epidemic, as well as that of survivors. How is the crisis maintained in people’s consciousness? How does the Ebola crisis become fused with other traumatic episodes in Sierra Leone’s recent past – its decade-long conflict, catastrophic landslides.

A core objective of the project will be to collect oral accounts of the Ebola crisis, including the testimonies of survivors, family members, burial team members, hotline operators, nurses, doctors and volunteers. This will be coordinated with colleagues at the National Ebola Museum and Archive, where recordings and transcriptions will be deposited. It is hoped that the candidate will contribute to the development of displays and outreach programmes at the Museum.

The studentship is for a duration of three years. The successful candidate will be initially registered as a MPhil student. In the first year (2020-21), the candidate will undertake research methods training and project development, taking advantage of taught courses in both SOAS and LSHTM, culminating in upgrade to PhD registration. The second year (2021-22) will be spent conducting fieldwork in Sierra Leone. The third year (2022-23) will be spent writing up in London.

Candidate Requirements: We invite applications from outstanding and highly motivated candidates who have a Masters degree in anthropology at merit or distinction level (with a minimum grade of 65% for their dissertation), and an undergraduate degree in anthropology or other relevant discipline. Experience of travelling or working in West Africa would be advantageous.

The studentship is open to applicants who would be assessed to have UK/EU fee status.

Subject Areas/Keywords: Anthropology, memory, commemoration, Ebola, Sierra Leone


Key References:

De Jong, Ferdinand and Michael Rowlands (eds). 2007. Reclaiming Heritage: Alternative Imaginaries of Memory in West Africa. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Ferme, Mariane. 2018. Out of War: Violence, Trauma and the Political Imagination in Sierra Leone. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

Keightley, Emily and Michael Pickering (eds). 2013. Research Methods for Memory Studies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Parker, Melissa. 2019. ‘Ebola and Public Authority: Saving Loved Ones in Sierra Leone’, Medical Anthropology 38: 440-454.

Richards, Paul. 2016. Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic. London: Zed Books.

Walsh, Sinead and Oliver Johnson. 2018. Getting to Zero: A Doctor and a Diplomat on the Ebola Frontline. London: Zed Books.

Further details about the project may be obtained from: Principal Supervisor: Professor Paul Basu <> or Co-Supervisor: Professor Melissa Parker <>

Further information about PhDs at SOAS is available from: SOAS Anthropology PhD programme:

SOAS Doctoral School Admissions <>

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

Closing date for applications is: Candidates wishing to apply for this fully funded three-year, full-time PhD studentship starting September 2020 must complete both an admissions application and a studentship application. These are separate processes.

STEP 1: Admissions Application: 15:00 UK time, Thursday, 5th March 2020. Apply for the Research Degrees programme: MPhil/PhD in Anthropology and Sociology using SOAS’s online admissions form. See HERE for information and ‘Apply Online’ link. Applicants must submit a complete online application for admission as soon as possible and no later than 15:00 UK time, Thursday, 5th March 2020). Further guidance for applying for admission to the MPhil/PhD programme and documents you need to submit is available at this link HERE. IMPORTANT: Please state in the admissions application that you wish to be considered for the Bloomsbury Colleges PhD Studentship, use the title of the studentship (Remembering Ebola: Memory and Memorialisation in Sierra Leone) as your Research Proposal Title and state Prof. Paul Basu as your Proposed Supervisor. Use your Supporting Statement to explain why you are motivated to apply for this particular project, and what skills and experience you will bring to the project. In your 2,000 word Research Proposal please respond to the project description and elaborate on how you would approach the project theoretically and methodologically based on your previous academic training and experience.

STEP 2: Studentship Application. Apply for the Bloomsbury Colleges Studentship by completing and submitting the studentship application form HERE as soon as possible but no later than 15:00 UK time, Thursday, 12th March 2020. Closing date for applications is: 15:00 UK time, Thursday, 12 March 2020