c o n c l u s i o n
On 21 August 2008, a stroke of the pen— actually a keystroke by a subordi-
nate that updated the mpps website— rendered the epidemic invisible once
again. Attacking the team’s report, declaring its presumptive diagnosis officially
null and void, and reclaiming a mono poly over epidemic knowledge extracted
mpps from any accountability for the deaths and of the obligation to respond
to the parents’ demand, “Tell me why my children died.” Even as mpps minis-
ters, rhs directors, and regional epidemiologists come and go, new physicians
arrive to work with Nabasanuka’s nurses and patients, and “normal” deaths con-
tinue, the mysterious epidemic has entered into the melancholic registers of
daily life for the children’s parents, stories that circulate across the lower delta
and the fragile borders of ste reotypical conceptions of indigenous and other
politically subordinated Venezuelans.
Epidemics are not the only contexts in which structural factors strip lives
of value so deeply that their termination seems to require no official response,
generate no accountability, and restrict their grievability. In the face of the grim
toll of state- sanctioned po litical vio lence in South Africa, Guatemala, Spain,
and elsewhere, stories that had long been officially dis appeared have gained
new lives. As bodies are disinterred, forensic specialists and relatives render their
causes of death legible in po litical as well as scientific terms. We would not want
to romanticize truth and reconciliation commissions, which can turn televised
narrative encounters into what are touted as national acts of cleansing, displac-
ing the need to transform structural inequalities. Nor would we want to equate
racial regimes of po litical vio lence with an epidemiological apparatus; to do so
would appropriate other bodies to draw attention to the people who died in
the mysterious epidemic. But we cannot stop wondering why “Tell me why my
children died” seemed to require no response, whether from epidemiologists
arriving with high hopes of figuring out what killed them, clinicians squirm-
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