Stephen Ellis Annual Lecture by Megan Vaughan: Africa in the time of Coronavirus - Biology, history and politics

Launch of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Benin. Photo: Présidence de la République du Bénin (via Flickr).

This event will be held physically in Leiden. For registrees who cannot travel to Leiden a link to an online platform will be sent one day before the start of the event.

The 2022 Stephen Ellis Annual Lecture will be given by Megan Vaughan, Professor of African History and Health at University College London.

There is no single account to be told about the course and impact of COVID-19 in Africa, but multiple stories, as yet unfinished. In some ways the pandemic turned a familiar story on its head. The disease and disaster framing that has so often been applied to the African continent now appeared more suited to the populations of Europe and North America, while many African countries apparently not only suffered less illness and death but also demonstrated an impressive ability to manage this major public health crisis. In his 2011 book 'Season of Rains', Stephen Ellis astutely analysed the postcolonial history of the continent and warned against the binary of disaster/salvation which external analysts so often fell back on. ‘Africa’ is not a country and COVID-19 is a global phenomenon.

In this lecture Prof. Megan Vaughan (Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London) employs a biosocial and historical approach to explore the differing experiences of different parts of the continent, examining the impact of global actions, inactions and inequalities as well as the role of local political and social actors and the virus itself.

Read the web dossier on COVID-19 in Africa, compiled by the ASCL Library.

Read the blog series about COVID-19 in Africa, written by ASCL researchers and Community members.

About Stephen Ellis

Stephen Ellis (1953-2015) was a renowned senior researcher at the African Studies Centre Leiden. He was a courageous, deeply inquisitive researcher, going further than most researchers of his generation to uncover hidden truths about Africa. He combined a great interest in how ‘real politics’ work and have an impact on people’s lives, with a fascination for the role of religion and morality. He did so as a historian, with particular attention for the way history influences the present. With the Stephen Ellis Annual Research Lecture, the African Studies Centre Leiden wants to honour Stephen Ellis as the great scholar he was and encourages others to work in his spirit.
Every year, a committee consisting of the director of the African Studies Centre Leiden, the Chair of the ASCL Researchers’ Assembly and Prof. Gerrie ter Haar (Stephen Ellis’ widow) invites a scholar to give the Annual Lecture.

Megan Vaughan was formerly Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History at the University of Cambridge and Professor of Commonwealth Studies at the University of Oxford. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Historical Society. Megan Vaughan joined the Institute of Advanced Studies at University College London in October 2015 as Professor of African History and Health. Her work, which crosses disciplinary boundaries, has focused on the history of medicine and psychiatry in Africa, on the history of famine, food supply and gender relations and on slavery in the Indian Ocean region. Most recently she held a major AHRC award on the history of death and death practices in Eastern and Southern Africa. She is now working on a Wellcome Trust-funded history of epidemiological change in Africa, focusing on 'chronic' diseases.

Date, time and location

01 December 2022
18.00 - 20.00
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 1.A20