Mobilities and Infectious Disease: ‘Othering’ in Canadian Political Discourse of Ebola

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Long, Jessica
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Mount Saint Vincent University
A review of relevant literature demonstrates that discourse often constructs the population from countries dealing with an infectious disease outbreak as a risk. Government measures to manage and prevent the spread of infectious diseases are predominately border measures that limit or restrict the movement of migrants from regions experiencing an infectious disease outbreak. Using a critical discourse analysis approach with combined research tools of Norman Fairclough and Edward Said, this is the first known study to analyze Canadian political discourse regarding the 2014 travel restrictions on three West African countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Examining the effect of border measures as a pandemic management strategy and the consequences for mobilities, this study aims to explore how political discourse produces certain meanings and representations of infectious diseases. Results of the analysis show that West African individuals are symbolically constructed as threats of spreading Ebola into Canada. Subsequently, the restrictions on West African individuals traveling to Canada are represented as ensuring the protection of the Canadian people’s health and safety. Conclusions drawn from this research demonstrate that the implementation of the measures ignored scientific process and expert consensus that travel restrictions are ineffective.
Ebola, Canadian political discourse, West Africa