The Omega Man, Colonialism, and Global Health
Over recent years, ‘global health’ has become a vibrant area of study in International Relations, and in the policy world there have been a plethora of new ‘global health initiatives’. Interventions in the name of ‘global health’ are often seen as an unproblematic good but the dynamics of donor-recipient relationships can be far from simple. Cultural differences, a lack of confidence in Western science/medicine, and suspicions over the possible ulterior motives of donors have in some cases led to resistance from those that global health interventions are seeking to help.
This chapter looks at The Omega Man (Sagal 1971) in which a group of survivors of a biological warfare-induced plague that has almost entirely wiped-out civilization have organized themselves into a post-apocalyptic cult, rejecting all forms of science, technology and medicine—and the efforts of would-be rescuers. Without drawing parallels, we use the film to illuminate some of the themes that are evident in two empirical cases of resistance to global health interventions: polio vaccination campaigns in northern Nigeria and Pakistan, and containing the 2014–2015 Ebola outbreak in west Africa. The chapter argues that colonial narratives and post-colonial counter-narratives affect the perceptions of both donors and recipients in global health and that, in some cases, this can create significant resistance to these efforts—even if they are intended to be genuinely humanitarian in nature. We conclude by arguing that there are legitimate reasons for taking more seriously the question of why the apparent beneficiaries of global health interventions may resist.
KeywordsGlobal Health Vaccination Campaign Polio Eradication Global Health Initiative Wild Poliovirus
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