“Racism is a visceral experience that dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body”

 – Ta-Nehisi Coates


In this project we take an ethnographic approach to understanding the dynamics at play in global health through the story of Khanyisa Peter (Zusakhe Mbasana), who’s life and death reveals how structural violence such as the built environment can have grave implications for health outcomes. While her narrative is amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, the legacies of Apartheid and in particular the systematic neglect of non-white populations can be traced as the biggest factor of harm. 

Khanyisa was a community health worker in the Khayelitsha township of Cape Town, South Africa. Every day she helped women care for their malnourished infants. Khanyisa knowingly exposed herself to COVID-19 to support her community. Then, in the middle of a work day on August 2020, she died. 

Khanyisa recognized the injustice of the township; the fact that the built environment and adverse conditions were negatively impacting her community. We have contextualized her life narrative within broader conversations about global health including structural violence, historical consequences and colonial legacies, and social determinism in the hopes that students will learn from her story and become inspired to combat these harmful forces in the future.

Click photo to view presentation

Link to presentation: https://prezi.com/view/uex7O4qhulXVxvL422uB/

By: Caroline Adkins, Brigitte Harbers, Beata Corcoran, and Brooke Redwine




Note: All images were taken in Khayelitsha by Beata in 2019.

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