The Pathogenic Nature: Research and Local Knowledge on Tropical Diseases in Endemic Areas

Global health currently faces various challenges. Such issues cannot be solved unilaterally, but require inter- and transdisciplinary responses. For some years now, the complexity of global health challenges has been recognised within the framework of the "One Health" approach, in which the health of humans is regarded and examined as closely linked to that of animals and the environment. At the same time, there are calls and efforts to decolonise global health in order to minimise longstanding power imbalances that took root in the colonial era. This panel addresses these two aspects by looking at how people in areas with endemic tropical diseases (dis-)connected nature and pathogens and how they generated and negotiated knowledge about their (disease) environment.

During the colonial era, tropical nature was long considered an enemy to the colonisers. Thus, tropical medicine’s prime aim was to protect the health of colonial settlers, but at the same time, research into tropical nature served to enhance the academic reputation of colonial doctors. Historiography has often focused on the histories of these colonial actors. This panel aims to address histories beyond this narrow viewpoint, by asking: What is the relationship between humans and nature in countries where tropical diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, human African trypanosomiasis and schistosomiasis are endemic?

Insects such as mosquitoes and flies are the most common disease carriers or vectors carrying parasites, bacteria or viruses that infect humans and animals. An insect “bite” and transmission through subcutaneous blood exchange is the cause of the diseases and for most neither vaccines nor cures are available. How do humans in endemic areas relate to these local vectors? Who are the human actors fighting against disease carriers in endemic areas? And how have the power relations and actors in this fight changed over time?

We invite contributions within the fields of history of medicine, science and technology studies, history of science and knowledge, global and African, Asian, South American, Pacific history. We particularly invite papers focusing on knowledge produced by people in endemic areas.

Planed paper:

Dr. Tanja Hammel, Universität Basel

Planed comment: Dr. Tizian Zumthurm, University of Luxembourg

Two slots for paper presentations are still free.

Verantwortung