In This Review

Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History
Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History
By Paul Farmer
688 pp, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020

Farmer embeds a memoir of his own experiences in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone during the height of the West African Ebola epidemic of 2014 in a much broader critique of colonialism and its lingering effects, which he views as primarily responsible for the lamentable state of public health in the region today. He reviews 500 years of history to make this case. Farmer always writes with great passion, but as a medical doctor by training with much experience in African countries, he is particularly authoritative about the issues Ebola posed for medical staff. His book argues that a “control-over-care” ideology permeates the region to the present day, as a legacy of the colonial emphasis on the containment of diseases rather than the treatment of the afflicted. During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, this logic of control meant that the main strategy to address the epidemic was to isolate infected individuals and the communities where the virus had spread, rather than to try to care for the infected. Farmer argues that as a result, many Africans died needlessly, despite widely available treatments.