Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Fall 5-9-2012

Major Department or Program



Suzanne Morissey


This thesis addresses media representations of contagious diseases. Focusing on the Ebola outbreak of 1995 and the SARS outbreak of 2002-2003, I examine the metaphorical language used to describe the diseases, and interrogate how the media contribute to Lakoff and Johnson’s metaphorical cognitive framework. I explore how ideas about contagious diseases reify Mary Douglas’ understandings of contagion and liminality, and ultimately, demonstrate that the media engender a fear of contagious diseases beyond their medical realities. By associating Ebola and SARS with elements such as war and nature, the media extend the power of the disease and make it imminently threatening. Thus, the media’s use of metaphors manipulates and alters pre-existing ideas about disease to create a new cognitive framework within which we understand infectious diseases.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Infectious diseases, Ebola virus diseases, SARS Virus, AIDS (Disease), HIV infections, China -- Health, Other (Philosophy), Mass media criticism, Communicable diseases -- Contagious diseases, Media -- Interpretation, Public health -- Representation, Africa -- Health, Congo (Democratic Republic) -- Zaire, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2012 -- Anthropology Department

Permanent URL

Document Type

Public Accessible Thesis

Terms of Use

If you have questions about permitted uses of this content, please contact the ARMINDA administrator

Included in

Anthropology Commons



Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).