Objectives and structure

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1970s Land Rover, once used in the control of vector-borne diseases, perpetually parked in 2004, in front of the 1930s-built headquarters of the Kenyan DVBD, where the liver stages of the malaria parasite were discovered before the war (Photo: Geissler)

Epidemic Traces aims to explore how epidemics and anti-epidemic responses have shaped the ecological, social and infrastructural terrain upon which present lives are lived, health is managed and imagined, and from which future epidemics may arise.

To achieve this aim, the project pursues four objectives:

1. To identify and map present material traces (defined broadly) of past epidemics and control;

2. To study past logics and practices from which these emerged, through archival and oral research;

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Erick Okioma, Kenyan HIV activist of the first hour and leader of HIV community groups that, only 2 weeks into the Covid-19 pandemic, use their long experience to  promote and produce facemasks. (March 2020, © Erick Okioma, with permission)

3. To assess the entanglement of these traces with current conditions of life, and practices and politics of health, in the spaces that communities and professionals inhabit;

4. To explore environmental and somatic, social and systemic implications of these traces, in collaboration with local experts, stakeholders and health professionals.

The objectives are pursued across five work packages on: chemical (WP1) and botanical (WP2) traces of vector-borne disease control; territorial containment structures after national Ebola biosecurity measures (WP3); accumulated infrastructures of vaccination programmes (WP4); and remains of social collectives that emerged from HIV prevention and treatment (WP5). These traces were chosen because they relate to key epidemics and epidemic responses that have shaped African public health – sleeping sickness, Onchocerciasis, Ebola, measles, and HIV/AIDS – and involve a wide range of socio-material forms.

Through joint research preparation, mutual field visits, and collaborative analysis and writing, the team of four anthropologists and a historian, with partners in geography, history, contemporary archaeology, anthropology, and STS, will deploy an innovative interdisciplinary methodology combining ethnography and historical research, which we, together with colleagues, developed and successfully used in previous research on African public health and science (see, e.g., Traces of the Future, 2017).

Published Nov. 12, 2021 11:34 AM - Last modified Dec. 8, 2021 9:44 AM