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Decolonising Global (Public) Health: from Western universalism to Global pluriversalities
  1. Clara Affun-Adegbulu1,2,
  2. Opemiposi Adegbulu3
  1. 1Department of Public Health, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerpen, Belgium
  2. 2Department of Political Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerpen, Belgium
  3. 3The Law School, Huddersfield Business School, Centre for Sustainability, Responsibility, Governance and Ethics, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, Kirklees, UK
  1. Correspondence to Clara Affun-Adegbulu; caffunadegbulu{at}

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  • There is emerging consensus about the need to decolonise Global Health. This is evidenced by the proliferation of seminars, conferences and publications in recent times.

  • In many cases, however, the focus and scope of these decolonial efforts tend to be on the Global South and on representation (diversity and equality), practice and the (re)production of knowledge.

  • Yet decolonisation is not ‘merely about altering the content but also the term on which we are having the conversation’.

  • In our opinion, a critical reflection about the very concept of Global Health is indispensable to true decolonisation.

  • Global (Public) Health, as currently conceptualised, is based on and inextricably linked to the Eurocentric conception of the (hu)man.

  • Global (Public) Health, thus, inevitably (re)produces the processes of othering and dehumanisation which are inherent to this conceptualisation of the (hu)man.

  • For Global (Public) Health to become truly decolonised, decolonisation must occur at both the epistemic and ontological levels.

  • This requires acknowledging that there are many ways of being and doing, unlearning the universality of being and actively engaging with pluriversalities of being.

‘The struggle of our times, one that has hitherto had no name, is the struggle against this overrepresentation of the western bourgeois Man’

—Sylvia Wynter1

‘They(We) are in effect still trapped in a history which they(we) do not understand and until they(we) understand it, they(we) cannot be released from it’

—James Baldwin2


A quick Google search using the keywords ‘Ebola deaths’ produces a series of images showing people in various stages of death and suffering. Two, which appear towards the top, are particularly striking. In one, a woman crawls towards a body, in the other, a man lays motionless on the ground. Both are clearly identifiable. A similar search, this time, using the keywords ‘COVID-19 deaths’ does not produce comparable results, even though we scrolled much further down …

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