series event

Pricing Pandemics: Necrofinance and the World Bank

In the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility we see a transformation in how epidemic threat is quantified, how those suffering are constituted and realised in the responses to epidemic. The glaring weaknesses in the West African Ebola response exposed the limits of the World Health Organization, existing global health responses and the reliance on global charity.

Rather than devoting significant funds to health systems development or holistic strategies of epidemic prevention, the World Bank sought to find a solution in the domain of finance and capital markets speculation. In doing so it produced a novel form of global finance, one for which the lives of populations can be abstracted to financial value and risk. This raises the question of what are the potential roles of capital markets in infectious disease management? How is epidemic risk assessed when focused through the manifold lenses of finance?

This seminar explores the history of catastrophe financing products and the contemporary history of international epidemic response to discern the roots of the PEF. Examining both the previous West African Ebola Virus Epidemic (2013-2016) as well other recent epidemics, Alexandre will demonstrate which assumptions of epidemic threat undergird the World Bank’s PEF structure and how it breaks from previous frameworks of pandemic threat appraisal such as the World Health Organization’s Public Health Emergency of International Concern designation.

Drawing upon the theories of Achille Mbembe, Jean Baudrillard and others this talk examines the roots of pandemic speculation and locates its role within the larger ecosystem of global infectious disease control.

The event is open to all, and the key audience includes those with an interest in health financing, health systems strengthening, and the history and sociology of epidemic disease control.


Dr Alexandre White joined the Johns Hopkins Faculty in 2019 after completing a Provost’s Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the university. He earned his B.A. in Black Studies from Amherst College, his MSc. in Sociology from the London School of Economics and Political Science and his PhD in Sociology from Boston University. He is jointly affiliated with the Department of the History of Medicine as an Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine and is an Associate Director for the Johns Hopkins Center For Medical Humanities and Social Medicine.


Join the webinar


LSHTM Centre for History in Public Health


Follow webinar link. Free and open to all.