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The printed press’s representations of the 2005–2007chikungunya epidemic in Réunion:Political polemics and (post)colonial disease

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From 2005 to 2007 the French overseas department and Indian Ocean island of Réunion experienced for the first time ever an epidemic of chikungunya. Chikungunya is a vector-spread disease by mosquitoes that leads to painful rheumatic symptoms, and infected approximately one-third of the island’s population of approximately 802,000 inhabitants.

This article is based upon a discourse analysis of text and images of 111 articles on chikungunya in Réunion’s two main newspapers. During the epidemic the Réunionese printed press functioned as a provider of information, and an instigator of political polemics. The newspapers’ criticism responded to ‘orientalist’ representations of chikungunya within national press – and officialdom, but also reflected local perceptions of neglect and abandonment by the French nation state. While taking issue with other studies of press coverage of the outbreak, however, I argue that the polemics illustrate historical Réunionese geopolitical identifications with France, instead of postcolonial opposition.
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Keywords: Réunion Island; chikungunya epidemi; geopolitics; political polemics; postcolonialism; printed press

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Bergen

Publication date: 2012-09-01

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